Monet Meets Municipality: What Do We Make of Public Art?

posted by – 03/23/11 @ 11:34am


Last weekend in the Richmond area of Vancouver, a canopy of beautiful, blue trees spontaneously cropped up against the urban landscape. Towering above a row of modest apartments, the temporary forest was anything but ordinary. Was this a Dr. Seuss-esque prank, a surreal figment of the viewer’s imagination, or merely a novel breed of shrubbery?

In fact, the project was the latest venture in public artwork from artist Konstantin Dimopolous. As part of the Vancouver Biennale–a public art program–The Blue Trees installation proves to be more than just an innocuous plot of flora. In fact, it brings to the forefront a handful of themes: global issues of deforestation,  the increasing popularity of municipal, outdoor settings for artwork, and lastly, the tenuous question: does public/outdoor art mark the downfall of the modern ‘museum?’

Rather than make lofty proclamations about Dimopolous’ project, I want to examine the growing realm of public art, or an “open-air museum,” as the Vancouver Biennale likes to call it.

Dreamspace V: Maurice Agis’ inflatable imaginarium–which allowed viewers to tread through a moon bounce/funhouse “dreamspace”–became the stuff of tragic sensationalism, when the structure toppled over. Many questioned the extent to which public art was fraught with peril, and perhaps an endeavour not worth the effort.

The Gates: During the winter of 2005, the pathway of orange, nylon “gates”  added a fresh take to the traditional Central Park landscape. Met with mixed reactions, the piece emerged as a conversation piece for the New York set, and a heuristic for public art–at least in the minds of many Manhattanites.

Ghost Ballet: A discussion of public art would not be complete without a nod to Nashville’s own Ghost Ballet. Who can forget the pictures of last May’s flood, with the Ghost Ballet partially submerged in the aquatic rubble?

Whether tapping into the visceral, or simply befuddling commuters and city-dwellers, public art has carved out a niche for itself. So, now I turn it over to you. Do you think that public art is a waste of resources, a mere rite of passage for a city to become more cosmopolitan? Or is it the new frontier of artwork?

1 Comment on Monet Meets Municipality: What Do We Make of Public Art?

  1. […] And for more on the artist’s inspiration behind Blue Trees, check out this past post. […]

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