Public Art – A Virtual Tour
Public Art refers to a specific art genre in any media whose form, function, and meaning are created for the general public through an open process.
Public art is visually and physically accessible to the public; it is installed in public space, usually outside. Public art embodies universal concepts, and it has aesthetic qualities in form or theme.
Independent art created in the public realm, for example, graffiti and street art, lacks official or tangible civil sanction and occupies an ambiguous space within the public art genre.
A Virtual Tour of Public Art
- Fernando Botero’s Chubby Sculptures
- “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin
- “Oval with Points” by Henry Moore
- “Chicago Picasso” by Pablo Picasso
- “The Knotted Gun” by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd
- “LOVE” by Robert Indiana
- “The Burghers of Calais” by Auguste Rodin
- Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius
- “Kiepenkerl” by Jeff Koons
- “Broken Obelisk” by Barnett Newman
- “Newton after Blake” by Eduardo Paolozzi
- “Sphere Within Sphere,” “Sfera con Sfera,” by Arnaldo Pomodoro
Forms of Public Art
These forms can overlap to suit a particular environment.
- Stand-alone sculptures, statues or structures
- Integrated into façades, pavements, or landscapes, such as bas reliefs, Hill figure, Geoglyph, Petroglyph, mosaics, digital lighting
- Applied to a surface, such as murals, building-mounted sculptures
- Temporary or non-permanent such as installations for a site that is in transition. Examples include the temporary sculptures and structures in Christchurch NZ during Earthquake reconstruction.
Public Art – Highlights
Fernando Botero Angulo (born 1932) is a Colombian figurative artist and sculptor. His signature style is known as “Boterismo,” which depicts figures in large, exaggerated volume, which can represent political criticism or humor, depending on the piece.
He is one of the most recognized artists from Latin America, and his art can be found in popular public places all around the world. In the last three decades, he has mostly worked out of Paris. He has achieved recognition for his paintings, drawings, and sculpture, with exhibitions across the world.
Botero’s work has concentrated on situational portraiture. His paintings and sculptures are united by their proportionally exaggerated, or “fat” figures, as he once referred to them. Botero explains his use of these “large people” in the following way: “An artist is attracted to certain kinds of form without knowing why. You adopt a position intuitively; only later do you attempt to rationalize or even justify it.”
“The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin was initially conceived for his monumental bronze portal entitled “The Gates of Hell” (1880-1917).
The figure was intended to represent Italian poet Dante pondering “The Divine Comedy,” his epic classic of Paradise and Inferno. Initially, this masterpiece had several other names, including “The Poet.”
In 1889, Rodin exhibited this sculpture independently of The Gates, giving it the title “The Thinker,” and in 1902, he embarked on this larger version.
Consequently, it has since become one of his most recognized masterpieces and is usually placed on a stone pedestal. The nude male figure is sitting on a rock with his chin resting on one hand, deep in thought. The image is often used as an image to represent philosophy.
“Oval with Points” by Henry Moore is an enigmatic abstract sculpture cast in bronze. The sculpture is a modulating oval ring with rounded edges.
The inside edge of the large hole has two protrusions rising from the sides and narrowing to sharp points that almost meet at the center of the hole, creating a sense of dynamic tension.
The points divide the hole into two spaces, a smaller one above and a larger one below, like a figure 8. The shape of the space is interpreted as resembling a human form with a head and a torso.
“Chicago Picasso” by Pablo Picasso is an untitled monumental Cubist sculpture in Chicago, USA. The sculpture was dedicated in 1967, in Daley Plaza in the Chicago Loop.
Publicly accessible, it is known for its inviting and interactive characteristics, with visitors often climbing on and sliding down the base of the sculpture.
Picasso completed a maquette of the sculpture in 1965, and when Picasso was offered payment, he refused, stating that he wanted to make his work a gift to the people of the city.
The sculpture was fabricated using weathering steel. Weathering steel, or corten steel is a steel alloy which was developed to eliminate the need for painting and form a stable rust-like appearance after several years’ exposure to weather.
“The Knotted Gun” by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd is a bronze sculpture of an oversized Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver with its muzzle tied in a knot.
The formal title of the sculpture is “Non-Violence,” and it was inspired following the artist’s grief at the murder of the musician John Lennon, formerly of the Beatles,
Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd made this original sculpture after the killing of John Lennon, and one copy was initially located at the Strawberry Fields memorial for Lenon in Central Park.
In 1988, Luxembourg donated the original sculpture to the United Nations, and it was moved and installed outside of the headquarters of the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
“LOVE” by Robert Indiana is a Pop Art image consisting of the letters L and O stacked over the letters V and E in bold Didone type. The O is slanted sideways with a slanted oblong space making the image dynamic.
Art Historians have described Indiana’s image as having many meanings and connections, including erotic, religious, autobiographical, and political.
The original image had green and blue spaces backing red lettering. It was created as a print image for a Museum of Modern Art Christmas card in 1965. The “LOVE” image was adapted in the 1960s by the hippie free love movement.
“The Burghers of Calais” by Auguste Rodin is one of his most famous sculptures. It commemorates a historical incident during the Hundred Years’ War, when Calais, a prominent French port on the English Channel, was under siege by the English for over a year and was forced to surrender.
The victors offered to spare the city if six of its leaders would surrender themselves and walk out wearing nooses around their necks, carrying the keys to the town and castle.
One of the wealthiest of the town leaders volunteered, and five other burghers volunteered to join him. It is this moment when the volunteers leave the city gates that this sculpture depicts. Rodin captured the poignant mix of defeat, heroic self-sacrifice, and willingness to face imminent death.
The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius depicts the famous Roman Emperor on horseback. The emperor is over life-size and extends his hand in a gesture used by emperors when addressing their army and legions.
It is an image designed to portray the Emperor as victorious and all-conquering. It is believed that a conquered enemy had initially been part of the sculpture, based on accounts from medieval times.
The reports suggest a figure of a bound barbarian chieftain once cowered underneath the horse’s front right leg. However, Marcus Aurelius is depicted without weapons or armor; he is portrayed as a bringer of peace rather than a military hero.
That is how Marcus Aurelius saw himself and his reign. The statue was erected ca. 175 AD, during the Marcus Aurelius’s reign, but its original location is unknown and debated.
“Kiepenkerl” by Jeff Koons references an 1896 sandstone sculpture of a traveling peddler or “Kiepenkerl” by August Schmiemann in Münster, Germany.
Koons’s replica sculpture was constructed of polished cast stainless steel and cast in 1987. The statue depicts a full-length figure of a man, with a basket on his back, and a basket at the ground near his right leg, all in shiny finish surfaces.
The original Kiepenkerl sculpture was destroyed during World War II and was re-created in cast metal by Albert Mazzotti Jr in 1953.
The replacement statue now stands in a small square in the Old Quarter of Münster, Germany. The original monument symbolized the man who comes to town from the country with produce to sell in his basket carried on the back.
“Broken Obelisk” by Barnett Newman is a sculpture that fuses the universal symbols of ancient Egypt, the pyramid, and the obelisk to reimagine the inverted obelisk shaft as a beam of light.
Our perception and association of pyramids and broken columns with ancient history has been reinterpreted into a current model of experience beyond the ordinary or physical level.
“Broken Obelisk” is a sculpture in the public art space that acts as a philosophical insight into knowledge, reality, and existence.
“Broken Obelisk” was designed between 1963 and 1967 and is fabricated from three tons of Cor-Ten steel, which acquires a rust-colored patina.
“Newton” by Eduardo Paolozzi is a large bronze sculpture displayed on a high plinth in the piazza outside the British Library in London.
The sculpture is also known as “Newton after Blake,” as it is based on William Blake’s 1795 print of “Newton: Personification of Man Limited by Reason.”
Blake’s print depicts a naked Isaac Newton sitting on a rocky ledge beside a mossy rock face while measuring with a pair of compass dividers. Eduardo Paolozzi greatly admired Blake’s print of Newton.
The print was intended by Blake to criticize Newton’s profane knowledge, usurping the sacred knowledge and power of the creator, with the scientist turning away from nature to focus on his theories.
“Sphere Within Sphere,” also known as “Sfera con Sfera,” is a series of sculptures created by sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro. The sculpture depicts an enormous metal sphere with a cracked surface, revealing an intricate interior with another cracked sphere inside.
The internal layers resemble the gears or cogwheels of a machine that symbolizes the complexity of the world. The fractured cracks symbolize the fragility of our society.
Pomodoro began his series of spheres in the 1960s with Sphere no. 1 and has continued for nearly forty years designing the globe-like pieces, each depicting different maps of destruction.
Each of the outer balls is fractured, revealing an intricate interior that unveils yet another cracking orb. The design of the internal layers mimics the gears of a clock or the inner workings of a grand piano, revealing the hidden complexity.
Pomodoro created the first version for the Vatican Museum in the 1960s and later began creating similar versions for many other institutions that can now be found in choice locations all over the world.
The artist’s initial vision was that the inner ball represented the Earth, and the outer ball represented our institutions.
Take a Virtual Tour
- Best Artists in Museums
- Best Women Artists in Museums
- Best Mythological Art in Museums
- Best History Paintings in Museums
- Popular Sculpture in Museums
- Christian Art in Museums
- Buddhist Art in Museums
- Egyptian Art in Museums
- Tour of Mesopotamian Art
- Tour of Islamic Art
- Tour of Maritime Museums
- Tour of Natural History Museums
- Tour of Science & Technology Museums
- Tour of Military & War Museums
- Tour of Air & Space Museums
- Tour of Archaeological Museums
- Tour of Police & Prison Museums
- Tour of Historic House Museums
- Tour of Money, Banking and Mint Museums
- Tour of Specialist Museums
- Tour of Historical Sites
- Tour of Popular Paintings in Museums
- Tour of Ancient Artifacts in Museums
- Tour of Portraits in Museums
- The Art of Everything
- Tour of Popular Museums and Art
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“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”
Photo Credit 1) Fernando Botero / CC BY (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)