Half-life for art in public space?
- Series: Kunst
A WAZ newspaper article dated 14th April („Wohin bloß mit der Kunst?”) reports on the removal and destruction of a sculpture by Otto Herbert Hajek. The sculpture had been standing at its place in Bochum for 40 years – Head of Cultural Affairs, Michael Townsend and museum Director Hans Günter Golinski, „had decided against keeping the sculpture due to aesthetic and practical reasons while being pressed for time”. The article mentions other examples of such practices and thus raises the following general questions:
Can there be a right for art in public space against the backdrop of a constantly changeing urban environment?
As harsh as it may sound: maybe we should warm to the fact that art is not made for all eternity any more but rather for our fast-paced days – taking a look into exhibition catalogues or museum websites which cater to current needs with zeitgeist adequate offers that we may not necessarily remember as permanent art phenomenon. Why should this be any different with art in public space?
In former times, places, streets and quarters were built around art – there are many examples in European cities. These streets still characterise the cityscape today: you simply cannot imagine to destroy the Arc de Triomphe, the Brandenburg Gate, the Eros Statue at the Piccadilly Circus or the Fontana die Trevi; they simply belong to the urban image and to the „flair“ of the respective metropolis and its citizens identify themselves with it.
Maybe that’s the problem of modern art in public space: it is often not really appreaciated or valued – just think about the discussion on the Serra steel plates or even more current: Herkules on the Nordstern pit.
Despite general acceptance, the significance of art in public space is defined by the market value of the exact place where it is located: will the area be needed for construction measures? Our cities – especially the big ones – keep changing and logistics and economic efficiency are the determining factors. Maybe we also have to put art in public space into a different perspective.
Does a piece of art in public space only mean art where it was originally installed? Or does art mean art - no matter where it is located?
Some pieces of art only have their specific effect if they stand exactly where they stand: i.e. there is some sort of natural art in Gelsenkirchen which consists of a tree that was struck by lightning which is bordered by steel bars. The entire piece developed its very own visual appearance since the bars have meanwhile been overgrown by leaves – this is something you simply cannot put into a shopping street. Yet there may be instances where this can be done – smart forces should come into effect here; forces that take the mentioned factors acceptance, function as a landmark, cost and logistics factors (not every community can affort to implement such a project!) into consideration to make the right decision. A difficult task but even more difficult is the question:
What happens to art in public space when it deteriorates and it is starting to lose its vision; when it cannot be kept in good condition any more?
Modern art often consists of short-lived substances that fall apart or suffer to environmental pollution which makes them more fragile and high-maintenance. In addition, there are the aforementioned dynamics of modern cities – new residential areas are developed, schools are combined, streets are built. Even if this is neither nice nor desireable you have to face the fact much like facing the fact that the public space will not remain stable any longer.
It’s tough for artists. And it’s a difficult decision for the boards and institutions that have to deliver the judgements that reach from “must be kept” to “can be destroyed”. There have been such commissions in the past but they are also subject to the law of economic efficiency. It might be an idea to install honorary posts so that competent groups capable of acting are formed to provide citizens with the feeling that in case an artwork has to be demolished, a group discussed the matter thoroughly beforehand.
photo above & sculpture: Klaus Kuliga artibeau
photo "Herkules": Michael Osterhaus
photo "Terminal": Sandra Anni Lang
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