Public art can come in many forms, but the one thing that all public art has in common is that it’s for the public, right?
Well, not entirely. While all public art can be viewed by members of the public, the vast majority – 90%, in fact – of public art is selected and erected without giving any say to the local taxpayers. “Public” works like the 10m large horse nose on the corner of Marche Arch by Hyde Park in 2011 are organised through private commissioning, which means the type of art the general public gets to see is usually chosen by only a small minority of people.
Working with Euston Town and Camden Council, MTArt Agency are on a mission to fix public art by bringing control back to the public. The team are introducing a new cultural strategy this summer which will set up ways in which locals will have to be consulted when public artworks are commissioned and briefs are created. The goal is to create a greater amount of respect between local residents and art professionals by encouraging the groups to work hand in hand and communicate more effectively.
Speaking on the importance of the project, Marine Tanguy, Founder and CEO of MTArt Agency, explains:
“I grew up in a family that didn’t care about art and often struggled to understand the importance it could have on our minds. We now know the impact public art has on the way we see the world and how we perceive others – especially who has power and who doesn’t – and so it is key for me that we all get to have a say on what artworks will shape the way we think over the coming years.”
The ideal solution to the public art problem needs to be sustainable. For this reason, MTArt Agency and Euston Town are partnering up with Alsitek, an industrial engineering company which has patented NOXtek, a sustainably sourced, environmentally friendly geopolymer which absorbs pollution from the air.
This is a major project, but the traditional commissioning process of public artworks is something which MTArt Agency have long worked to counter. Just last year, the agency worked with artist Saype to create the largest public art painting in the world – a biodegradable artwork created in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Tanguy has given a TEDx Talk on the future of public art and co-published an academic paper finding that public art was valued by over 84% of people. This research found that local residents had a desire for public artworks that aligned with their own stories, and would be willing to pay towards public art projects if they were given a stronger say in choosing which works were selected and why.
As the community begins to gain more ownership of and control over the art in their neighbourhoods, the hope is that a more open and inclusive society can emerge, where everyone feels represented by the art and media that surrounds them.
“While I have become more privileged, I feel it is my duty to make sure that this changes for the next generation of children who may not feel included or represented in society by the artworks that they see around them. This new strategy ensures that we include the local community as part of the public art commissioning process so art becomes both democratic and a right.” – Marine Tanguy, Founder & CEO, MTArt
Article by Toby Buckley.
The image at the top of the page shows artwork created by Jennifer Abessira for a public art project organised by MTArt in London Bridge. Photo © MTArt.