A couple months ago, the New York Times ran an article by Ken Johnson about how the focus of public sculpture in New York City has changed. In the article, Johnson asserts that, "Outdoor art isn’t what it used to be. Once it honored heroic individuals and upheld values that whole populations could embrace. Today, excepting memorials like the Vietnam veterans wall, outdoor art serves rather to divert, amuse and comfort."
Johnson goes on to compare some of NYC's classical figurative sculptures with the newer, quirkier public pieces that are more popular today, such as Tom Sach's Hello Kitty figure in the Lever House plaza. Johnson says that contemporary outdoor art offers "unobjectionable, mildly decorative or entertaining and relatively empty experiences."
But I think some would argue the opposite. To me, contemporary public sculpture seems to be more provocative than the statues of heroic individuals that Johnson refers to. Rather than serving to "divert, amuse and comfort," I think most contemporary public sculpture seeks to engage viewers to think about the art and form an opinion.
But what do you think? Has public sculpture gotten too "well behaved"? Weigh in by taking our poll and clicking "Comment" below.
Photo: DANCERS by Jonathan Borofsky. Photo courtesy of the City and County of Denver.