Exploring art in urban environment Essay

Historical Context

In the late 18th century, the constitution of the museum revolutionised the impression that art had to be sole. Paintings and sculptures, objects antecedently housed in private aggregations and viewed by a typically bourgeois audience, were propelled into the wider public sphere. Although arising as national establishments, as popularity for this new cultural attractive force grew, farther art museums were required on a regional and local footing and over the centuries this tendency culminated in the formation of the modern-day art gallery.

The technological revolution of the 1960 ‘s, so, brought with it an addition in available leisure clip for the general populace, spurring a continued and unprecedented growing in the rate at which art galleries were built. Alongside the debut of modern media techniques, this combination one time once more succeeded in conveying art to an progressively big and diverse audience.

This patterned advance, nevertheless, brought about a cardinal alteration in the existent production, format and show of the art pieces themselves. Artists and conservators likewise, were required to react to the altering perceptual experiences of a broader, multi-cultural and modern twenty-four hours audience. To retain an entreaty, more experimental signifiers of art and methods of show were introduced. Art was no longer restricted to being hung on a wall, mounted on a pedestal or designed to accommodate a impersonal background. The function of the witness no longer had to be strictly inactive. Over the past 50 old ages, the pattern of art and its trust on the modern gallery scene, that of the conventional white regular hexahedron, which ‘seeks to exceed specificity of clip and location ‘ ( Ault, J. , 2003, in Dernie, 2006, p.9 ) has been confronted.

One result is that we have witnessed rising patterns of art that extend past the architectural confines of the traditional gallery infinite and into the external urban cloth.

Public art in the urban context, in its broadest definition, is non new in construct. ‘As a work of art or design that is created by an creative person specifically to be sited in a public infinite, ‘ ( The Newport News Public Art Foundation ) memorials, commemorations and architectural ornamentation are all valid illustrations. It was once more in the 1960 ‘s, nevertheless, that public art became a subject in its ain right, organizing new sub-genres including environmental, land, site-specific, community-based and street art. By proving thoughts of show through actively prosecuting the populace in a more natural environment, art has formed a much greater portion in mundane life.

That is non to state, that public art demand be reciprocally sole of the modern-day art gallery. Historically ‘art signifiers more closely linked to countries of mundane life… have been marginalized by the art establishments as missing ‘aesthetic quality. ‘ ( Gastil, 1997, p.85 ) With its gradual credence as a compelling art signifier, nevertheless, there are now many illustrations where an exhibition of public art, has been divided between both the urban environment and the interior gallery scene. In some instances, the plants of art in the urban context, are physically linked to a gallery or simply act as an extension to the chief internal exhibition. In other illustrations, the gallery takes a lesser function, supplying a model of background cognition, moving as an interpretative voice or a fiscal helper for a show chiefly located elsewhere. The internal and external events may run in analogue, or the gallery exhibition may predate or follow the external show by a few yearss, hebdomads or even old ages.

Public Art in the twenty-first Century

In the first decennary of the twenty-first century, there is a greater demand for art in the urban context, but the popularity and proliferation of this public art, has in bend, led to the danger of it going generic/gentrified and holding a lesser impact. Now no longer a fresh construct, creative persons in their desire to pull an audience, one time once more have to endeavor much harder. In the urban environment, unlike the contained gallery scene, there is non ever an anticipant perceiver, here there is a much larger audience that merely happens upon the scene/location and they need to be engaged if the work is to be received successfully.

‘Works of modern-day art in public infinites are encountered by diverse populaces who have, to a big extent, no contact with art in galleries, though they may be adept at reading the codifications of mass civilization. ‘ ( Gastil, 1997, p.14 )

More problematically, art in general, besides needs to vie with a vigorous leisure industry and an excessively cinematic modern universe. The reinforced environment has become progressively globalised and homogeneous. As ‘a society already bombarded with dramatic imagination and simulated environments ‘ ( Dernie, 2006, p.14 ) through the day-to-day onslaught of ocular stimulation, ( advertizements, artworks and digital media ) we besides require added stimulation of our other senses, to prosecute with our milieus and make a rich, memorable experience.

Within the modern-day art gallery it is evident ‘what is now cardinal to modern-day exhibition design is the creative activity of an ‘experience ‘ that is prosecuting, multi-sensorial and honoring. ‘ ( ibid. , p.13 ) This ‘experience ‘ relies on a mixture of digital engineering, graphical design, sound, public presentation and practical world, to construct up the clean canvas of the internal infinite and make an immersive environment.

In contrast, back within the external context, this diverse layering of properties is a pre-defined status. The reinforced environment provides the experience, the context, sights, sounds, and odors that are merely of all time fabricated within the intent built gallery. Naturally happening phenomena, the layering of human activity and habitation, societal, economic and political factors, environmental factors, historical and cultural backgrounds, all combine organically to organize a stimulating environment. It is interesting hence that, frequently, it is the ‘everyday ‘ environment that is overlooked.

“ Many people appear so unmindful to their milieus, or so insulated from the incursions of modern life, that they truly do necessitate person to stand in forepart of

them, signaling wildly, before they raise their eyes and look up. ” ( Searle, 2007 )

In the current clime, it is apparent that for public art to win in such a hostile environment, it needs to hold either an impact or a resonance, to do a permanent feeling.

Exploration through Example

To look at how some creative persons have tackled this thought, this paper focuses on three specific undertakings of external public art, that non merely note-worthy for their advanced attack, have besides have risen to the challenges of a modern society, and are ‘projects that intentionally provoke geographic expedition of public infinites… arousing fresh thought about familiar sites and contexts. ‘ ( Gastil, 2004, p.99 ) These are undertakings that due either to their graduated table, spontaneousness or intent, could non hold occurred within the confines of an art gallery. It is of import to observe, nevertheless, each instance survey did hold a direct nexus with the conventional gallery scene, demoing an interesting mutuality. This relationship can be seen to differ between the illustrations, dependant on the demands of the particular undertaking.

In analyzing the three instance surveies, I intend to research more specifically the differing methods employed by the creative persons to prosecute the spectator ; the context of urban art and how it affects its intent, significance, and value, and whether the relationship these undertakings had with conventional art gallery, strengthened the work itself.


The first undertaking, Event Horizon, was a large-scale sculpture undertaking by Antony Gormley, centered around the Hayward Gallery on the south bank of the Thames in 2007. As one of London ‘s most ambitious public art committees, 31 life size reproduction of the creative person ‘s bare organic structure were scattered within a two kilometer propinquity of this cardinal London site.

4 of these 31 statues were made from dramatis personae Fe and located at street degree. By temporarily puting them in the direct tract of the populace, ‘tangibly disrupting the class of day-to-day life, ‘ ( www.antonygormley.com, 2009 ) , the creative person orchestrated an battle through a series of confrontations. The unsuspicious passerby was challenged to do a determination. Whether tourer, occupant or day-to-day commuter, the passerby was forced to take either to walk by caput down, to hesitate to take in the sight, or to halt and make out to touch this foreign figure.

The staying 27 figures, were instead placed operating expense, on the rooftops of outstanding edifices. The unexpected sighting of a human silhouette populating the skyline, evoked machination and amazement ( and in some more controversial cases, a phone call to the exigency services ) . In either brush, the installing achieved its preliminary end in organizing an initial duologue between itself and the passerby.

Despite being extended over this two kilometer site, the considered arrangement of the statues, ensured that more than one would ever be evident in the peripheral vision of the witness, widening the graduated table of the work. Whilst some were clearly seeable and others a mere pinpoint on the skyline, there became an ambiguity to how many more of these figures there were placed around the metropolis.

“ The work connects the tangible, perceptual and conceptual, and implicates the spectator in a field status. ” ( www.antonygormley.com, 2009 )

Through an implied interrelatedness between the figures and their assorted locations, the bing reinforced environment became the larger phase on which the show was set.

The witness was distanced from the plants on the skyline, but the deduction was that they themselves, by standing within this phase, could besides be an extra figure in the landscape.

At street degree, the contrasting propinquity of the statues further increased this active engagement of the witness / passerby, by allowing closer scrutiny. The haptic quality and graduated table of the figures, their material response to environmental factors such as the visual aspect of rust and the shadows cast from them by the Sun, could wholly be observed and assessed first manus, doing the undertaking more memorable.

By incorporating this impermanent installing into the familiar urban landscape, Gormley does non merely seek to promote the witness to look at the single statues, but to look afresh at their milieus. In this instance the oculus is drawn to facets of the skyline that are often overlooked and witnesss are encouraged to see their relationship as persons to the metropolis and other dwellers.

‘Event Horizon gives one a terrific sense of the metropolis ‘s graduated table, of the comparative size of the human in relation to the architecture, of the distances and propinquities of the metropolis ‘s disorderly lifts. ‘ ( Searle, 2007 )

Event Horizon ran in analogue with an exhibition of Gormley ‘s earlier sculptures, prints, drawings and exposure, located within the Hayward Gallery itself. These plants were seminal in their ain right, but the wonder developed by puting the figures within the urban context, encouraged a far larger figure of visitants to the exhibition.

Each of the 31 external statues had been rotated to confront the external screening balcony of the Hayward devising this the focal point of attractive force. Visitors flooded into the gallery to this observation deck, to stand and look back out at the metropolis. Intentionally no figures were placed on the balcony itself, in a ‘reversal of the normal relationship between spectator and art object, ‘ ( Gormley in Vidler, 2007, p.47 ) those detecting from the gallery, were encouraged to watch the array of interactions with the art in the street.

Once in the gallery scene, visitants could so detect similar statues within a different context. The gallery provided an alternate penetration to the work, and finally this relationship farther enhanced the overall experience.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude

The extremely publicized installing Wrapped Reichstag, by Christo and Jeanne-Claude provides the 2nd instance survey. In 1995 The Reichstag in Berlin, a symbol of democracy for Germany, was wrapped for 14 yearss in 100,000 square metres of thick woven polypropene cloth. A steel model was temporarily installed to the frontages and roof of the edifice, changing the original proportions and leting the cloth to cascade to the land. First conceived in 1971, it took 24 old ages of public forums, parliamentary arguments, imperativeness conferences and design tests, before blessing for the undertaking was granted and as such the considerable activity that preceded the wrapper, became every bit much a portion of the work as the existent installing.

As a edifice of immense historical significance, the image of The Reichstag was a familiar one and therefore the initial brush of the spectator to the installing tended to be one of awe. Both dramatic in graduated table and play, this show showcased how undertakings could be strengthened by their interaction with the outside universe. The cloaked cloth took on a dynamic quality by being free to ruffle in the air current, whilst the aluminium coating reflected the Sun during the twenty-four hours and became muted in the eventide. Even the sheer sum of people who went to see the transmutation, provided a spectacle in itself.

By being intentionally impermanent, the work was enhanced in strength and value. Described as a ‘revelation through privacy ‘ , ( Bourdon, 1971 ) by transforming the visual aspect it drew on people ‘s memory to retrieve the original proportions, the materiality and the solidarity of the edifice concealed beneath. When the installing was so dismantled and the site returned to its original province, this excessively provoked a farther re-evaluation that continued long after the undertaking was dismantled.

‘In 1995, it was seen by five million people and has retained its power through certification and memory long after it was removed. ‘ ( Gastil, 1997, p.102 )

In this case the relationship of the gallery was based around two parts. Prior to the two-week installing, the function of the galley was one of publicity. Due to the sheer logistics of wrapping such a important icon of German history, drawings, montages and scale theoretical accounts were, over a period of old ages, displayed within a battalion of galleries. Get downing at the Annely Juda Gallery in London and so traveling to galleries in Cologne and eventually Berlin, the creative persons sought an international consciousness of the undertaking, to raise both the public support and the fundss required to set about the undertaking.

After the event, exposure taken during the installing, were so exhibited alongside the original drawings as a record of the event. The wrapper of The Reichstag besides raised several political and historical issues, which were once more documented within these farther exhibitions, to spread out the background cognition of the visitant.

The spectacle was executed within the urban environment, but for those who possibly could non go to, those that had heard about the event merely afterwards through the media, or those that merely wanted to larn more, the modern-day art gallery provided this forum and later extended the life of the installing.


The 3rd illustration is far subtler in nature. Produced by creative person Slinkachu in 2006, a series of one-inch mini-installations were created for, and placed in, the streets of London. In modifying little, shop bought fictile statuettes and puting them within a existent urban context, Slinkachu curated mundane human scenarios, in illumination, whether it be reading the newspaper, shopping, sight-seeing or engaged in more condemnable activities.

Unlike the two old illustrations, the art works of Slinkachu, did non trust on being at odds with their urban milieus. Left to be discovered by passerby, the orchestrated scenes invited geographic expedition through wonder and machination.

Like Gormley ‘s statues, these illumination figures were designed to prosecute the audience emotively through personal resonance.

“ Even when you know they are merely hand-painted statuettes, you ca n’t assist but experience that their predicaments convey something of our ain frights about being lost and vulnerable. ” ( The Times, 2006 )

In the urban context, by the very nature of the size of the installing, even the trained oculus could go through over the work unnoticed and the pieces were merely likely to pull the attending of a really little figure of people. To guarantee the battle of a wider audience, Slinkachu captured these intercessions through photographic images that appeared, in tandem, on advertizement boards throughout the metropolis.

For each illumination scene, exposure were taken from distances both far off and up near, yet the advertizement boards showed merely one image of the set, intentionally perplexing the passerby and promoting a 2nd glimpse. In the wider scene it was non instantly obvious where the work was, whilst at the macro graduated table, the statuettes appeared to follow human proportions.

The creative person besides relied on the traditional gallery infinite to supply an interpretative voice. Exhibiting at the Cosh Gallery, the two exposure of each installing could be placed next to one another alongside recreated scenes of the original context, uncovering the deformation of graduated table, to the spectator, in a witty mode.

The gallery in this case provided acknowledgment of the creative person and of his installings that exterior of the gallery scene, were non needfully obvious as a pieces of art. If the audience had been unsuccessful in happening the installings in the urban environment or, instead one time engaged, merely wanted to larn more, the gallery provided a infinite to summarize the events that occurred externally.

In a reversal of functions, for some the gallery even became the starting point. On observing the separate scenarios and their locations within the metropolis, visitants would frequently be encouraged to so travel back outside and hunt for the work, which by so nevertheless, may hold been washed off by rain, discarded as trash or rescued as a hoarded wealth.


Whilst each person will detect or see a state of affairs otherwise, dependant on their ain prepossessions, by technology brushs, plot lines and multi-sensorial experiences, in each instance survey, the creative persons have been successful in promoting an audience to ‘raise their eyes and look up ‘ ( Searle, 2007 ) from their mundane lives. As demonstrated, if plants of art can arouse an affectional response from the witness, such as daze, awe, wonder or empathy, it can lend to a permanent feeling. Besides by being impermanent in nature ‘there is an component of spontaneousness to these topographic points and events that is memorable. One does n’t really anticipate the experience you arrive at. ‘ ( Gastil, 1997, p.18 ) In the illustration of Event Horizon, even the most unsuspicious of passerby, can go active participants in the play blossoming around them.

It is apparent that each instance survey besides became strengthened by the profusion of its environing location. By being placed alongside properties identifiable in mundane life, the witness could pull upon a deeper societal and cultural model, to organize their ain sentiment of the art. In bend, as new intercessions within familiar landscapes, these undertakings heightened the consciousness of the witness and encouraged them, even if merely subliminally, to reevaluate the urban environment around them.

The value of urban art is hence, non judged entirely on its ain intrinsic virtues as an single piece or installing, but alternatively its value is in the duologue it can bring forth between itself, the witness and the environing context.

The intent of this paper is non to propose that shows in the urban environment are of all time likely to replace or take precedency over those in the typical gallery infinite, but that by being more experimental in nature, they act as a accelerator to prove the perceptual experiences of a underdeveloped audience.

‘For many of us the ‘designed ‘ air of the modern art gallery or museum still represents a sort of elitism, ‘ ( Dernie, 2006, p.9 ) Alternatively the unpredictable and unregulated external environment, offers acquaintance, an chance for spontaneousness, and a larger phase on which to exhibit. Urban installings bring plants of art to a mass audience ; to those who may non be actively seeking it, but might good go engaged by it and happen enjoyment from it. They can actuate people to seek farther apprehension in come ining a gallery they would possibly non visit otherwise.

The modern-day art gallery in associating with these urban installings has adapted and taken on a new back uping function, supplying a degree of instruction, a longer permanent memory, fiscal inducements, acknowledgment and finally a voice between the creative person and general populace.

The advantage of uniting these two environments, as indicated in the three instance surveies, is that this relationship can be of common benefit, it can supply added value and impact and turn out fruitful in prosecuting a wider diverse audience, or as in the instance of Slinkachu, even lead to a cult following.

Related bibliography


  • Baal-Teshuva, J. ( 2001 ) , Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Taschen
  • Bourdon, D. ( 1971 ) , Christo, Harry N. Abrams Publishers, New York
  • Chernow, B. ( 2000 ) , Christo and Jeanne-Claude A Biography, St Martin ‘s Press, New York
  • Dernie, D. ( 2006 ) , Exhibition Design, Laurence King, London
  • Gastil, W. , Ryan, Z. ( 2004 ) , Open: New Designs for Public Space, Princeton Architectural Press
  • Holl, S. ( 2007 ) , Questions of Perception: Phenomenology of Architecture ( 2nd Edition ) , William K Stout Publishers
  • Lynch, K. ( 1972 ) , What Time is This Topographic point, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA
  • Miles, M. ( 1997 ) , Art, Space and the City: Public Art and Urban Futures, Routledge
  • O’Doherty, B. ( 2000 ) , Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, University of California Press, California
  • Pallasmaa, J. ( 2005 ) The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses ( 2nd Edition ) , John Wiley & A ; Sons
  • Psarra, S. ( 2009 ) , Architecture and Narrative: The formation of infinite and cultural significance, Routledge, Oxford
  • Self, W. ( 2008 ) , Small People in the City: The street art of Slinkachu, Boxtree, Oxford
  • Vidler, A. , Stewart, S. and Mitchell, W. ( 2007 ) , Anthony Gormley Blind Light, Hayward Gallery Publishing, London
  • Zardini, M. ( 2005 ) Sense of the City: An Alternate Approach to Urbanism, Lars Muller Publishers, Toronto

Imperativeness Articles:

  • Searle, A. , ( 2007 ) , Antony ‘s Army, The Guardian, May 15th

Web sites:

  • & A ; lt ; www.antonygormley.com & gt ; ( Accessed 04/01/10 )
  • The Newport News Public Art Foundation, What is Public Art, Available from: & A ; lt ; www.nppaf.org & gt ; ( Accessed 03/01/10 )
  • The Times, ( 2006 ) , The Blog of the Week, October 28th, Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/article611643.ece & gt ; ( Accessed 29/12/09 )

Picture Creditss:

  1. Photograph by Miller, D. ( 2005 ) The White Cube Gallery, Available from: & A ; lt ; www.frieze.com/images/shows & gt ;
  2. Photograph by Hopper, D. ( 1967 ) Fluids by Allan Kaprow, Los Angeles, Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www.moca.org/kaprow/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/fluids_hopper.jpg & gt ;
  3. Runing Fence by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, California, ( 1972 ) in Baal-Teshuva, J. ( 2001 ) , Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Taschen
  4. Photograph by Aschkenas, D. ( 1985 ) Tilted Arc by Richard Serra, Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/flashpoints/visualarts/images/tiltedarc_big2.jpg & gt ;
  5. Celebrated advertizement boards on Piccadilly Circus, London, ( 2005 ) Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //farm1.static.flickr.com/22/24424335_ff48a4e4d9.jpg & gt ;
  6. Interactive Displays, London Underground, ( 2007 ) Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //farm1.static.flickr.com/175/414771632_a851ce4e51.jpg? v=0 & gt ;
  7. Nikon Interactive Lightbox, Subway Station Seoul, ( 2009 ) Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www.jacobtyler.com/creative-blog/wp-admin/images/Nikon.png & gt ;
  8. Photograph by White, S. ( 2007 ) Event Horizon, in Vidler, A. , Stewart, S. and Mitchell, W. ( 2007 ) Anthony Gormley Blind Light, Hayward Gallery Publishing, London
  9. Event Horizon ( 2007 ) Available from: & A ; lt ; www.flickr.com & gt ;
  10. Photograph by White, S. ( 2007 ) Event Horizon, in Vidler, A. , Stewart, S. and Mitchell, W. ( 2007 ) Anthony Gormley Blind Light, Hayward Gallery Publishing, London
  11. Photograph by Harrison, C. ( 2007 ) ‘Event Horizon ‘ – By Antony Gormle­­­­y, Waterloo Bridge, London, Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www.england-360.co.uk/panos/london/antony-gormley-waterloo-bridge-london.htm & gt ;
  12. Wrapped Reichstag ( 1995 ) in Baal-Teshuva, J. ( 2001 ) , Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Taschen
  13. Photograph by Manzanares, R. ( 2009 ) Christo and Jeanne-Claude with a theoretical account of Wrapped Reichstag, Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2009/nov/20/jeanne-claude-christo-obituary & gt ;
  14. Preliminary Drawings, Wrapped Reichstag in Baal-Teshuva, J. ( 2001 ) , Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Taschen
  15. Photograph by Hecht, H. ( 1995 ) Wrapped Reichstag, Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www.heinrichhecht.de/pix/architecture/pic14.jpg & gt ;
  16. Photograph by Hecht, H. ( 1995 ) Wrapped Reichstag at Night, Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www.heinrichhecht.de/pix/architecture/pic14.jpg & gt ;
  17. Slinkachu, ( 2008 ) Land Zero Solo Show, Cosh Gallery, London, Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //slinkachu.com & gt ; & gt ;
  18. Slinkachu, ( 2008 ) Land Zero Solo Show, Cosh Gallery, London, Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //slinkachu.com & gt ;
  19. Slinkachu, ( 2007 ) I Ca n’t Actually Graffiti, Festival Hall, London, Available from: & A ; lt ; www.slinkachu.com & gt ;
  20. Slinkachu, ( 2007 ) I Ca n’t Actually Graffiti, Festival Hall, London, Available from: & A ; lt ; www.slinkachu.com & gt ;
  21. Slinkachu, ( 2009 ) Small Victory, Billingsgate, London, Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //little-people.blogspot.com & gt ;
  22. Slinkachu, ( 2009 ) Small Victory, Billingsgate, London, Available from: & A ; lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //little-people.blogspot.com & gt ;