Public Art From Around The World
What is public art, anyway? It refers to art forms that are present in the public realm. Most often, it is site-specific and addresses the location’s character. While historical monuments and statues have been established as the most recognizable forms of public art, modernity has evolved to include street art, performance, installations, and more! What makes public art so intriguing is that it is capable of shaping social constructs and collective consciousness. It has the ability to initiate a better understanding of contemporary society.
In some ways, public art is ahead of its time. Why? Because unlike the intimidating museums and galleries, public art is accessible to all. Don’t fret, if you’re one of the many people who feel daunted by mega art institutions, Artsper has gathered a select few public artworks from around the globe that you can visit at your leisure without any pressure!
#1 Chicago, USA | Cloud Gate, Anish Kapoor
As one of Chicago’s most popular attractions, Cloud Gate is a public artwork that invites viewers into a new world! Anish Kapoor, the artist, explains that the work is useless without the viewer. In order for the work to be complete and function, the viewer must engage with it. For this reason, Kapoor named it Cloud Gate because it mostly reflects the sky, thus opening the viewer to a whole new world.
The sculpture was fabricated with over 100 tons and stainless steel and is over 10 meters tall. Considering its weight and size, the artist successfully made the public artwork appear as if it were afloat! Despite having been officially named Cloud Gate, Chicago locals have affectionately nicknamed the sculpture The Bean. This trend has become so popular and widespread that most art lovers recognize the structure as The Bean as well.
#2 Naoshima, Japan | Pumpkin, Yayoi Kusama
You have likely heard of it… Naoshima Island, also known as “art island”. It is home to incredible innovative art, most of it found in the open for the public! Naoshima is best known for bringing art, culture, and nature together. What was once an island in decline, has now been revived through tourism and contemporary art! Yayoi Kusama, one of Japan’s leading figures in art, has contributed to the success of the island!
Yayoi Kusama’s unique works are often monumental in size and have quirky visuals. Her first public sculpture was this yellow, spotted pumpkin. Its iconic bold color and contrast against the natural environment are what rose the artwork to fame! Her works are easily recognizable by art lovers everywhere due to her signature style. With a career spanning over several decades, Kusama remains one of the world’s greatest and influential artists.
#3 Paris, France | Tulip Bouquet, Jeff Koons
Recognized as one of today’s best artists, Jeff Koons offered his bouquet of tulips to Paris to show support of the American people for the French after the 2015-16 attacks. The artwork is meant to signify resilience, recovery, and remembrance. The bouquet is missing a flower, to represent the heavy loss that affected victims and families. This public artwork includes a large-scale hand giving a modern “bouquet of tulips”, a gesture of good faith and optimism.
The structure is installed in the Champs-Élysées, permanently between the Petit Palais and the Place de la Concorde. Tulip Bouquet was publically denounced and received a lot of harsh criticism! But the artist intended for the work to be a sign of condolence and comfort for the French. To solidify this, Koons himself paid for any outstanding costs that were not covered by the American and French funds. Furthermore, he offered any future income received under this work’s copyright to be affiliated with the associations of the victims’ families.
#4 Valencia, Spain | Falla, PichiAvo
This Spanish duo unites classical art and graffiti, creating beautiful contemporary art mixed with traditional iconography. The Falla, an 85-foot sculpture, was created for Valencia’s Fallas Festival, where fallas are set aflame in honor of St. Joseph’s feast. Although PichiAvo’s works have acquired immense global recognition, the Falla served as an opportunity to bring their style back home. Their works are deeply rooted in tradition, making the Falla a rediscovery of the Fallas Festival’s core values.
The Falla took a full year to create. The wooden sculpture was built and painted in sections then assembled on-site for the festival. Following tradition, the monument had been torched after three days of festivities. Now, the ephemeral public artwork remains but a memory. Although the departure of artwork can be painful for many, some art is meant to be temporary. PichiAvo’s short-lived Falla did just that!
#5 London, England | Sweep It Under The Rug, Banksy
Like most Banksy works, Sweep It Under The Rug carries a certain degree of mystery and narrative. On the exterior of a London gallery, onlookers will find a maid looking up as she lifts part of the wall to sweep away the dust.
After mentioning how historically, only the rich could afford portraiture, this work was a tribute to his hotel maid in Los Angeles who had cleaned his room. Sweep It Under The Rug is ultimately about the democratization of subjects in art. Unfortunately, this public artwork lasted only two months before being removed. There have been ample controversies surrounding how and why the masterpiece’s removal occurred; primarily scapegoating the gallery, where the stencil was originally installed.
#6 Bejing, China | Mirrored Cloud, Wong Yanggang
Wang Yonggang has created a public artwork that hovers amid Beijing’s Xicheng District. The work demonstrates floating cloud imagery with reflective surfaces. Not only is it an obstruction of reality by echoing its surroundings, but it also constantly adjusts the atmosphere with it’s flowing state.
With the intent to merge traditional and contemporary Chinese aesthetics, Wang Yonggang integrates environmental components to achieve a sense of continuity. While this perspective is commonly seen in Chinese scrolls, the audience is able to interact with this public artwork as well. With its fluid forms, Mirrored Cloud pushes viewers to engage and discover its patterns. The public is encouraged to climb, play, or sit on the structure, as a means of melding virtual and reality.
#7 Reykjavik, Iceland | Sun Voyager, Jón Gunnar Árnason
Situated in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, this public artwork was conceived from a competition. For the city’s 200th-anniversary, locals hosted a contest in search of an emblem for their home. Artist Jón Gunnar Árnason’s concept for Sun Voyager was deemed the victor!
The public artwork has several interpretations. Made with stainless steel and solid granite, Sun Voyager symbolically demonstrates perseverance and resilience. The materials are able to withstand severe climates, as are the residents. Others believe it to be a promise of undiscovered territory and dreams of freedom. Lastly, many believe there may be symbolic duality. The artist was ill during the construction and died before the work was complete. Thus, many believe it also symbolizes the soul’s journey to death, as it follows the light.
#8 Edmonton, Canada | Talus Dome, Benjamin Ball, Gaston Nogues
Talus Dome is a mirrored dome sculpture along a stretch of Edmonton’s roadside. The hollow structure is made up of nearly 1000 stainless steel spheres. Together, they take the form of a large abstract mound, representing how the city’s culture and environment are intrinsically linked.
The artwork is not solely a part of the landscape, but it is reflective of it as well. The work depicts an undeniable duality. First, it melds with its environment through imitation and reflection. For every passing hour or changing season, the work reiterates the flux of light and color. Second, its form also presents the same spatial gestures. The work echoes Edmonton’s natural hillside, river valley, and snowdrifts. Talus Dome commemorates Edmonton’s unique beauty and the coexistence between humankind and nature.
#9 Zadar, Croatia | Sea Organ, Nikola Bašić
The coastal city of Zadar, Croatia, has the world’s largest aerophone! Following World War II, Zadar underwent rapid reconstruction. Architect Nikola Bašić proposed a revamping of the seawall, suggesting a “sea organ”. He constructed a network of underground tubes, all with various lengths, so the waves could interact with the wall. This reconstruction led to a new art piece creating a broad range of musical tones.
Today, visitors are able to mingle on the stairs leading down the sea. Underneath lies the organ pipes, triggered by the waves, creating compositions that fluctuate with the sea’s mood. Discover this unique public artwork and massive wind instrument in Croatia!
#10 Berlin, Germany | Jewish Holocaust Memorial, Peter Eisenman
In Berlin, thousands of concrete slabs have been neatly arranged by Peter Eisenman in honor of the Jewish lives lost during the Holocaust. The public art piece is simultaneously an immersive installation and a memorial. With such a delicate subject, the artwork has faced immense controversy but remains among the most popular sites to visit in Berlin.
Eisenman creates a haunting space, reminding the audience of the large-scale mass murder that took place many years ago. With a desire to move away from Jewish symbolism, Eisenman explores the notion of feeling lost within space and time instead. In this sense, he considers the artwork a “field of otherness”. Visitors will undoubtedly experience overwhelming emotions while being consumed by this massive public artwork.
There you have it, public art from all corners of the world! Visiting an art institution is not the only place to encounter great artworks. Rather, there are masterpieces all around us! Artists often find inspiration from their surroundings, then place their works within those environments. Artsper encourages you to get out, travel, and explore the amazing public artworks most accessible to you! Enjoy!
Founded in 2013, Artsper is an online marketplace for contemporary art. Partnering with 1,800 professional art galleries around the world, it makes discovering and acquiring art accessible to all.Learn more