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European Expert Meeting on Percent for Art Schemes

Session Four: Sustainable Art

Sweden : Kjell Strandqvist, National Public Art Council (NPAC)

'Maintenance of Public Art'

Kjell Strandqvist is artist and project manager of the Swedish NPAC [1]. He spoke of the supervision and maintenance of art in public space based on three recent examples.

The NPAC has been supervising public art in Sweden since 2004. Prior to this works which had been purchased fell under the responsibility of the government departments concerned and the maintenance of works from commissions was the responsibility of the owner of the premises. The NPAC's ambition is to have a single body to take charge of this supervision and maintenance.

It has a three-part task in this: drawing up an annual inventory, registration of works in a national database and an annual report on the condition of each work.

As soon as any damage is ascertained consultations take place between the owner concerned and the NPAC. In the case of such problems, art history and restorative considerations are not the only important factors; after all the conditions and context of the public space concerned should also be taken into account.

On the basis of three examples, Strandqvist illustrated the problems concerning wear or corrosion of art works in public space.

Case Studies

1. Carsten Höller, 'Windbreak', 2004, Västerås

Höller designed a windbreak of 12 mm transparent polycarbonate, mounted in a rail on a wooden plateau. The windbreak can be moved by manpower. Despite the strong construction, shortly after the erection of the windbreak an unexpected form of damage arose: the screen was used as a skateboard ramp, which resulted in scratches.

A situation of this kind calls up questions of how to deal with damage to a public work: should you leave the vision of the damage to the artist? Should you view the damage as a part of the natural process of the work or, according to the more traditional viewpoint – which is often also endorsed by the public and the users – see it as damage to a public object which therefore needs restoring? This will inevitably have to take place, the question is: when?


Hans van den Ban indicated that legislation concerning maintenance in the Netherlands is fairly strict, but if an artist works with materials which wear, a reconstruction is not necessarily essential. Strandqvist suggested that this depends on the value of the art or the artist at this particular time.

In Sweden , financing the maintenance is the legal responsibility of the owner of the premises, but no amount is coupled to this. This means that owners always prefer projects with low maintenance costs.

Adrian George asked about safety risks if no maintenance is carried out. If dangerous, the work would have to be removed and this is why it is important that the condition of works is monitored annually.

George also asked about the use of the space for installing the windbreak. It concerned a site in a dock area which was being developed for new housing. There was prior consultation with architects and the municipality but not with future residents.

Elisabeth Tetens Jahn stated that this element is crucial. Every public work of art presupposes a dialogue with users. But this dialogue changes because not only the population but also the public space itself changes. You have to respect the users and residents of this space and so you have to keep up the dialogue.

George gave two examples of works of art which have been relocated. Liverpool is having a lot of works relocated in the framework of the European capital in 2008. However, the city does not shout it out from the rooftops and things go fairly smoothly as a result. In Westminster , plans to relocate equestrian statues were announced in advance. So much commotion arose about these plans that they were ultimately cancelled.

Maggie Bolt responded by saying that this is a very specific example because of the historic implications. Generally speaking, dismantling works of art is an important issue, about which artists should make agreements. Furthermore, the term 'forever' should be dealt with more flexibly.

Katharina Blaas mentioned that it was precisely because of the changing nature of public space and views concerning art in this context, that Lower Austria works a great deal with temporary projects, with for example, a duration of 6 to 12 months. These temporary projects are alternated with permanent works.

Therèse Legierse stated that you can also include a duration in contracts for more permanent works, for example for 10 to 15 years, and agree to review the situation at that time.

Madeleine van Lennep agreed that this is a good method. There have been a lot of legal cases concerning problems of this kind in the Netherlands and they must be anticipated. She also emphasised the importance of good documentation so that the history of the project is transparent when looked at in the future.

In connection with this, Hans van den Ban wanted to touch on an art-historical problem. In general there is a sort of cycle of appreciation. This realisation obliges you to deal carefully with history. It has made the Dutch Chief Government Architect's Studio very wary and has led to the preservation of several wooden examples of sculpture from, for example, the seventies and eighties, despite the fact that they are not very popular.

Belgium/Flemish-speaking Belgium: Katrien Laenen

‘The Government Architect's Art Cell'

Katrien Laenen represents the Art Cell of the Flemish Government Architect's team, which supervises art commissions for government buildings.

Although in Flemish-speaking Belgium a bye-law concerning the integration of art in public buildings was issued in 1986, the scheme has only worked well since the second half of the nineties. There has been a structured implementation of the bye-law both in the field of policy-making and in the practical sense since the appointment of the Government Architect and the Art Cell in 1999.

In drawing up policy instruments, the Art Cell aims for an integrated approach to all existing and the new buildings, and for infrastructural and landscape projects carried out by the Flemish government. A multidisciplinary analysis of the effects of intervention in this field is important. The rich historic context is an integral part of this and must be retained while, at the same time, the intention exists to broaden this history with contemporary works in the twenty-first century. The Art Cell works for building projects carried out by government agencies (of the Flemish government and local authorities) and institutes which use the services of the Government Architect. Incidentally, Walloon (the French-speaking part of Belgium ) has its own structures for art in public space; this also applies to Brussels which is an independent region.

For each project a committee is formed which subsequently formulates, in detail, the definition for the commission for both the building and the work of art to be integrated in it. In this way the responsibility for the work of art is incorporated in the building team from the beginning so that it can develop within the design process for the building and is not reduced to an "add-on" with an arbitrary relationship with the context.

The Art Cell is the coordinator and link with the architectural team. As is the case in Sweden , although this is not quite as extensive, the team works with a maintenance officer who collects information about the condition of existing works. The committee includes an art advisor who cooperates in the selection of artists. Sometimes the Art Cell calls in (various) external experts.

The Art Cell is a young team which has had to learn by trial and error. It has worked with the Government Architect for six years during which the latter laid down the general vision. A publication has been brought out about this period. A new Government Architect recently took office and there will be a shift in policy. His focus will lie more on the field of urban planning and infrastructure. A part of the team will carry on so as to ensure continuity.

Case Studies

1. Meesterproef (Master test)

This is one of the Art Cell's projects; in it young artists and architects are given the opportunity to build up experience. The participants visit a few designated sites and based on this gathering and presentations of their own work, teams form which elaborate proposals for the project. The teams work these out and present them under the supervision of an artist and an architect. Some proposals are actually implemented.

2. Expansion of the Oostende Ring Road

There is still hardly any legislation for infrastructural projects. The Art Cell has been trying to set up a policy for this area since 1999; a special staff member has been appointed for the purpose.

The Ring Road around Oostende is being expanded; a bridge, a tunnel and a roundabout are being added. Ulrike Linkmeyer has developed a master plan for this project which involves three artists. Luc Deleu designed an artificial horizon for in the tunnel. Joëlle Tuerlinckx designed new signs for use in the public space. To this end she cooperated with the police and the other relevant parties regarding the legislation concerned. Lois Weinberger submitted a minimal work in response to the fact that roundabouts are usually decorated with works of art which, generally speaking, are ugly. He felt that the roundabout should stay as empty as possible and only placed the sign for a roundabout on it. Another part of his project amounted to the placing of a realistic statue of a cow on a strip of grass between two noise barriers. The cow is an extremely alienating element at this particular spot with its exceptionally spacious effect. Incidentally, he chose this specific cow from a farm. He sees his art work as a kind of tribute to this rare breed.

United Kingdom : Maggie Bolt, Public Art South West (PASW)

'UK Scheme PROJECT for the built environment'

Maggie Bolt is director of PASW.

PASW observes the point of departure that art in public space is not a form of art, but a principle whereby the changing environment can be improved by involving artists in the conception, development and transformation of this public space. It must, from its inception, be created by practical cooperation which is specific to the site and context in question. Artists have the function of creative thinker within this process and can take on various roles such as that of animator, commentator, editor or creator.

PASW is a public art development agency, funded by Arts Council England (South West). It arose from the South West Regional Arts Board as a result of the successful promotion of the percentage scheme in the Nineties. The scheme is, however, only a financing system. Although it has been adopted enthusiastically, quality is not monitored. In order to have it work properly, there must be an underlying vision and policy in the field of public art. This is why PASW worked with local authorities a lot at the beginning, the objective being the development of a strategy, contemplation on the role of the artist and an integrated approach.

When concluding a contact with the public or private sector, PASW observes a number of principles which can be summarised as follows: the artists must actually be involved in the process and be able to take on the role of conceptual thinkers within the open, collective, cooperative process; there must also be mutual respect for one another's expertise.

PASW's work takes place in four areas: it disseminates information about projects and routes through the English system via a website; it initiates training courses for the professional development of artists, policy assistants, planners, developers and architects; it provides advice on matters concerning the award of commissions; it develops strategies and finances strategic regional or national models.

PROJECT engaging artists in the built environment.

After a request from the CABE [2] and Arts & Business (A&B) to 10 organisations to submit project proposals which provide for a new structure for cooperation between artists and the public and private sectors, PASW formulated the PROJECT plan in 2003.

This plan provides for the support of artists who work in or advise the sectors: design, planning and construction of public space. PROJECT comprises six different categories: Exploration, Visionary, Team-Building, Creative Homes, Creative Communities and the Talking Artists Award. [3]

The scheme is a pilot project with a duration of two years. Tenders are as open as possible, but artists may not apply individually. In their plans, the applying organisations must show true commitment to the involvement of artists in developing public space. The sectors healthcare, housing and education are the spearheads of the programme.

An independent agency (COMEDIA) is currently evaluating the project and its findings indicate a great deal of enthusiasm and high expectations of success. There are problems, however, including the complexity and sluggishness of bureaucratic processes and the idea that the artist is a cheap alternative for the designer. Furthermore, the budget available is not yet in proportion with the high expectations. The definitive evaluation will be completed by May 2006.

The artists involved in the projects are very varied; some have never worked in this way before. They have been chosen for the quality of their work and their conceptual skills. PROJECT supervises the artist throughout the whole process and advises the parties in question in every possible field. Its role is often one of agent or mediator between parties, and it must ensure that the project continues to make progress. As a result quality is well monitored.

Case Studies

1. Blackburn, Lancashire, North West England

Artist Denna Jones was involved in a housing renovation project for three districts; 12,000 pounds had been made available for this project from the Visionary category.

Jones is one of a multidisciplinary design team (which includes engineers, architects, house building experts and urban planners) which is to develop new visions for a number of the districts which have degenerated the most, in cooperation with local communities.

She has drawn up an overview of the various social and spatial issues in the districts and, on the basis of her position, thinks along with those concerned about matters such as demolition versus renovation, the layout and furnishing of the public space in the city centre and the social problems of mixed communities. Her activities have included developing proposals for a big landmark and organising course programmes in mobile telephony for unemployed young people when she discovered that this group barely had any access to these kinds of activities.

2. Chatham Place, Reading, South East England

Ever since the construction of new roads in the Seventies, the city of Reading has been divided into a residential and a trading part. The only connection between the two parts is a pedestrian bridge. Work is now being carried out on a reorganisation plan which is supposed to reunite the two parts and provide for a more extensive city centre.

Artist Marion Coutts is working together with the architect on developing plans for this reorganisation. She is a member of the design team and suggests ideas for the layout of public space, opting for a poetic, historic approach (designs for tiling, fountains, etc.). She is also interested in how people use public space and in social routines.

The designer (AMEC) is very enthusiastic about her contribution; her presence stimulates creativity in the design team.

3. Arbury Park, Cambridge, East England

Artist Patricia Mackinnon-Day is involved in developing a housing project with the aid of a contribution from the Visionary Category (of 15,000 pounds). Various archaeological sites are located in the area. The artist must, among other things, take into account the public space and community buildings and can propose that other artists be called in. She has made various works including a transparency based on a photograph of a field of sweet peas , a textual work in which she incorporated the history of travelling labourers, and suggested using old jelly moulds for the layout of the landscape and the design of a community building (as a reference to the Chivers Jam and Jelly Factory). These examples demonstrate the contributions artists can make in thinking about and developing our environment. They provide openings for creative thinking, not only by doing so themselves, but also by enabling others to do so. A good support system and financing are, however, essential for success.


After Bolt's presentation, Nelly Voorhuis asked about the scope of PROJECT , because the name PASW suggests that only the south west is involved. Bolt emphasised that it is a system for the whole country.

There were also several questions with regard to finances. The abovementioned invested amounts are available for the artists and these amounts are often matched by other partners. PROJECT supports the initiation of the project and the other partners commit themselves for the follow-up. When asked whether, after the first phase, partners ever decide that they would rather have another project after all, Bolt replied that this was unlikely.

Adrian George asked what happens if companies approach PROJECT and ask to have a work realised for a specific amount which in PROJECT 's opinion is not feasible. Isn't there a risk that they will simply go somewhere else? This does actually happen sometimes according to Bolt and she does not think that it can be avoided. It is therefore better to focus on those partners you can interest in your methods.

In response to a question from Kjell Strandqvist about the method, Bolt explained it in more detail. Once PROJECT 's part has been completed, a report is written with an outline and budget for the follow-up. Discussions on the process take place at the top (and lower) management level. This is important because you have to watch that the person submitting the request is authorised to do so and that the project is supported by the company.

Adrian George asked whether Bolt has experienced the misuse of art as a sort of trailblazer for the acceptance of a new building project. Bolt replied that the team keeps a good eye open for this.

Madeleine van Lennep asked the average age of the participating artists because the procedure demands quite high requirements as regards skills. PROJECT works with artists of an average age of 40. The wealth of experience lies primarily with PROJECT itself, which shares this as much as possible by means of the website and seminars.

[1] See also the website: www.statenskonstrad.se

[2] www.cabe.org.uk

[3] See also the distributed handout and the website, www.project-awards.org.uk.