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European Expert Meeting on Percent for Art Schemes

Session Five: Future Art

Denmark: Vibeke Jacobson / Jesper Christiansen, Danish Arts Foundation (DAF)

'Undesired Installations, Implementing Environmental and Public Art'

The DAF [1] promotes all forms of art by awarding grants to individual artists. There are two committees for the visual arts: one committee awards grants and scholarships and purchases works of art for public buildings, and the other awards commissions for art in public space. One individual is chairman of both committees and Jesper Christiansen, an artist, currently holds these posts. Vibeke Jacobson is the DAF secretary.

In Denmark there is a percentage scheme in force for state buildings and the infrastructure (see: percentage schemes) but not much is being built these days. The commissions generally start with a request by a municipality or other public establishment. The three members of the DAF have to convince the other members (from the establishment submitting the request) and the architect that the integration of art in public space is a big responsibility entailing copyright and the disposal of public funds, etc. The six members of the Committee must subsequently agree on the description of the commission and the choice of the artist. An artist draws up an outline for the implementation of the work which is paid for by the DAF. The draft design and budget are submitted to the Committee and form the basis for the contract. There must be full consensus within the Committee on the topic to be chosen and this sometimes means that representatives of the local authority concerned must consult with their colleagues to guarantee support and finances for the project. The important thing is that the local authorities undertake to contribute to the implementation and maintenance costs for the long term. After the realisation of the work of art it becomes the property of the local authorities.

Case Study

Often reality sets in: suddenly a local authority is no longer happy with the responsibility and tries to get out of it. Christiansen was keen to discuss the ethical questions of removing a work shortly after it has been installed. How can it be that the local authority decides to remove a work of art which it chose in close corporation with the DAF – solely under pressure of public opinion?

A few years ago Århus approached the DAF for the realisation of a monument in the centre of the city, on the Square in front of the cathedral. The DAF decided to participate with a budget of approximately 600,000-700,000 euros and in consultation with the local authorities the commission went to the Danish sculptor Hein Heinsen. Everyone was highly satisfied until the local newspaper began a negative publicity campaign which brought about a complete reversal in public opinion. The whistle was subsequently blown on the plan.

A number of years later (in 2002) Århus approached the DAF again. This time the public was able to choose from draft designs made by six artists. Elisabeth Toubro's design was chosen, partly because Århus wanted a sculpture with fountain. The DAF has years of experience with water features and, because of the Danish climate, advised against realisation. But Århus was adamant. Toubro worked on the commission for a year and delivered it in 2003. Six months later technical problems began with the water. No one in Århus could fix them, but the client is responsible for maintaining the work. The local newspaper again started publishing articles about the sculpture and asked readers to react. A year of negative letters followed. The local political parties have decided to remove the statue and are now looking for financial resources to do so.

Jesper Christiansen put the following questions to the participants:

  • Has anyone had similar experiences?
  • Is it reasonable to remove a work of art under pressure of public opinion?
  • Should the DAF get its money back in a situation of this kind?
  • Does the public have the ethical right to the work of art?
  • Is public art for the public?

Norway : Vivian Moen, the National Foundation for Art in Public Buildings (NFAPB)

'The National Foundation for Art and our Future Challenges'

Vivian Moen is director of the Danish NFAPB [2] . Advisor Elisabeth Tetens Jahn was also present.

In Norway the general feeling about developments in the field of art in public space is optimistic. The new government wants to strengthen its cultural activities and has drawn up a list of 15 points which must be reinforced by 2014. Art in public space is one of them.

The point of departure for the NFAPB is to enrich and move the public with art. Public art means more than a formal aesthetic relationship between architecture and art, it is also about communication and dialogue with the environment, the activities which take place there and the users.

This entails a number of challenges:

  • Ensuring quality which means that diversity and innovation are important aspects as is finding location-specific solutions.
  • Playing an active role in the development of art;
  • Developing a dialogue with the public, which means actively involving it.
  • Protecting the integrity of art which means that the special position of culture must be guaranteed when looking for links with the economic market.
  • Assuring the maintenance of public art.
  • Strengthening the financial framework.

Case Studies

1. Elmgreen & Dragset, 'Cooling Bag', National School for Agriculture & Environment, Ås.

An art committee of professionals was put together for this commission. A work of art had to be produced which would activate the neoclassicist public park, not by pursuing it but by means of contrast with the surroundings.

The thermos or cooling bag (of painted bronze) has a stimulating presence because the park itself does not invite one to have a picnic; it has a highly ornamental character. The statue is one of a series of eight which are to be installed throughout the world. So far it is on display, on a permanent basis, in Svolvær (No) and Arizona (USA). It has also been on temporary display in the Netherlands and Sweden.

Although the user rejected this work in the first instance, it was ultimately accepted after intensive dialogue with the Committee. The work was damaged and subsequently relocated and on this occasion the director mentioned his original scepticism which had since turned into real appreciation and pride.

Veikko Kunnas asked whether the decision-making method is an important issue in Norway . This is certainly the case and the structure is currently being revised. So far, for example, all plans have to be submitted to the NFAPB board for approval. The idea is that smaller projects will also be handled by the agency.

Elisabeth Tetens Jahn emphasised that the various advisory systems have an essentially different function. In the first model there is plenty of room for discussion within the Committee which means that a lot of time and effort is spent on consultation. The second model is based on clear choices and dialogue. Vivian Moen expected a shift towards this second system.

Spain: Ignasi de Lecea, Barcelona City Council

'Project Barcelona in relation to City Planning'

Ignasi de Lecea is director of the Urban Planning Section of the Barcelona City Council. He spoke about the development of art in public space from the Eighties up to the present and showed a series of examples.

The development of urban planning in Barcelona is closely connected to the development of democracy in Spain . The improvement of public space and social cohesion were important points in the first local democratic elections. At the time, however, there was no (inter)national vision on how to work with art in public space. Barcelona's story is therefore one of 'trial and error'.

Three points of departure applied for the policy which was set out at the beginning of the Eighties:

  • the street is not only a route for transport; it is also a place for communication and interaction;
  • the avenue is not a motorway; the nineteenth century avenues of Barcelona must form an essential part of the interaction in the city;
  • the suburbs must be monumentalised: monuments play an important role in the culture of Barcelona . They are reference points, memorials which have an important place in the awareness of the population and its feeling of identity. This also applies to the suburbs. De Lecea gave two examples: a monument devoted to new migrants and a monument which marks the city limits.

The policy in Barcelona primarily concerns public space outside rather than public buildings (less development has taken place in this area). Barcelona has modified many of its squares (for example, squares which were used as car parks have been transformed into pedestrian precincts with palm trees). In Spain architects have a different position to that of artists. For art applications they have to consult artists and this position is not always accepted. This means that the Department for Urban Planning is an important player in the field. In addition policy is highly dependent on the political support of the Mayor. It makes a considerable difference if he or she has a personal affinity with or is committed to art.

Barcelona is a city of statues, many public works of art being statues of rulers. A different role and a new space for the visual arts was sought for the new policy. This could, for example, entail the combination of public/publicity space about which Tamson Dillon also spoke.

Memorial monuments play an important role in Barcelona. The history of the city is one of high and low points and crucial incidents often give rise to public works. However, it must be said that the idea is not to make the city into a museum. This outlook would set limits on the development of a meaningful programme for art in public space. Some areas are, however, perceived in this way. The consequence of the policy observed is that the collection is very diverse. One third of the works originate from Catalonia , one third of them are Spanish and one third have been created by international artists. A catalogue has now been compiled of the art collection in public space in Barcelona. The focus is now on the integration of less material works.

Tanja Karreman observed that a great deal seems to be possible in Barcelona as regards the choice of artists and she wondered whether this perhaps had to do with the structure of the organisation about which we heard a lot in the previous presentation. Is it a fact that in Barcelona such clear choices can be made because there are no democratic procedures?

De Lecea emphasised that in general a process of participation is followed and that there has been an art committee since 1997. This committee primarily rejects a lot of proposals, although it does not evade regular grants, and it would not be a good thing for a single person to be responsible for this.

The principle that the possibilities for public space may not, in theory, be limited is observed in Barcelona.

[1] See also the website: www.kunststyrelsen.dk

[2] See also the website: www.utsmykkingsfondet.no