While public art is often displayed as a part of the city’s public realm, it has multiple purposes. For example, some pieces of public art have more purpose than beautification. For example, Jeff Koons created Balloon Flower (Red) (1995-1999) in New York City, while Siah Armajani created the Bridge Over Tree in Brooklyn Bridge Park, both of which were intended to remind the public of the importance of protecting nature.
Throughout history, public art has been used to address social issues. A prominent example of this is Victor Pasmore’s Apollo Pavilion, which sits on the site of the Parthenon temple in Athens. However, the Parthenon Marbles were removed and placed at the British Museum, causing many people to be outraged. Since public artworks are often commissioned by the local community, it would be illegitimate to move one from place to place. Such a move would violate public art ethics and undermine its purpose.
Many works of public art use interactive elements to encourage direct interaction. These components can include music, light, video, and water. The Ontario Science Centre fountain, for example, is designed to act like a musical instrument. People can block the water jets, causing them to produce sounds. Other examples of interactive public art include Jim Pallas’ Century of Light, a vast outdoor mandala of lights that responded to sound and movements detected by radar.
Public art often serves as a catalyst for a community’s revitalization. The arts can make a city more attractive to residents and bring a sense of pride and belonging. The most successful projects incorporate input from the artists themselves. Those commissioning public artworks should be open to the public. Often, these works of art are not free, and many require a small admission fee. So the public should be able to enjoy these works of art without the fear of having to pay to visit them.
Aside from being a catalyst for civic revitalization, public art can also be used as a means of political propaganda. While the purpose of public art is often to enhance civic pride and community, there is a need for real art that is provocative and meaningful. For example, many artists prefer to create works of art in open, unobtrusive spaces. This is a key difference between public art and private works of art.
While some public art works are created with the goal of enhancing public space, others are designed to make a particular place more environmentally friendly. In recent decades, the concept of sustainability has risen in public art, a practice that seeks to activate images and surroundings in an attempt to improve the environment. Many environmental planning projects have adopted the concept of sustainability, which emerged from perceived deficiency of a city. Many artists such as Christo and Jeanne-Claude have responded to this need by creating works of public art that are both beautiful and environmentally friendly.
In terms of art in the public realm, the urban environment is complex and intense. It is an environment with a lot of people and many competing interests. Public art must work with these factors while simultaneously addressing the physical, social, and political context in which it is placed. To be truly effective, contemporary public art requires collaboration with many people, including artists, architects, and city planners. There is no single source of inspiration for public art. However, there are several important guidelines that artists can follow to achieve the most meaningful results.