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Is Public Art Disappearing?

An article by Sheila Farr, Seattle Times art critic, published on 8 May 2005, has provoked an interesting online discussion about the nature and quality of contemporary public art and the work of artists in the public realm. The article, entitled 'Is public art disappearing' looks at the changes in public art practice over the last 30 years or so, as reflected in the extensive public art collection in the city of Seattle.

Up until the late 1970s, 'public art' generally meant monumental sculptures located in public places, but not necessarily conceived for that place or even for an outdoor site. All that changed in 1979 when the Seattle Art Commission involved three artists in collaborating with the design team for the Viewland / Hoffman electricity substation in the city. This proved to be the model for changes in the way public art was commissioned in Seattle, and subsequently all over the US and the world. Sheila Farr comments on the effect that this has had on quality and distinctiveness of art works and on the professional work of artists.

The article provoked an immediate, impassioned and well-argued response from ex-Seattle artist, Ries Niemi, via the Yahoo Public Art e-group.

The full article by Sheila Farr is at seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/homeYou will need to register (free) in order to use the Archive.

The exchange via the Public Art e-group can be read on groups.yahoo.com/group/pub-art

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As a result of the overwhelming response to this article, the Seattle Times has opened an online forum at forums.seattletimes.nwsource.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=24

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