ALWAYS CONFRONTATIONAL? Public Art vs. Art for the Public

By Joan Ronstadt

“Public art” and “Art for the public” are two different concepts that are easily interchangeable.  Public art refers more to commissioned pieces that are often twisted metal sculptures placed in publicly designated areas like plazas. These pieces are typically commissioned by foundations, the government or large institutions. Art for the public typically has a meaning, purpose and more likely than not, is confrontational. It is not often commissioned by state institutions but may be created based on artists’ personal initiatives or gallery projects. Both public art and art for the public, of course, are in public space


This piece by Mark Jenkins is an example of art for the public because it is confrontational and forces people to interact with their surrounding.











Though surprisingly controversial, The Tilted Arc by Richard Serra is an example of public art. Some found it offensive and  it changed the way persons navigated through the public space in which it was placed.



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