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Hein, Hilde. What is public art? Time, place, and meaning
1996, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 54 (1):1-7.
Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir
Introduction: Public art is an oxymoron according to the standards of modernist art and aesthetic theory. Modern philosophical aesthetics focuses almost exclusively on subjective experience and a commodified work of art. Art is taken to be the product of an individual and autonomous act of expression, and its appreciation is, likewise, a private act of contemplation. By contrast, as a public phenomenon, art must entail the artist's self-negation and deference to a collective community. It is interesting to observe that the recognized art of nearly all cultures, including that of the western European tradition prior to the late Renaissance, embraces just such a collective model, indulging the differences among individuals as variant manifestations of a common spirit. The celebrated treasures of Greece and Rome, as well as the Christian works of the Middle Ages and the age of the fresco that succeeded them, do not exalt the private vision of individual artists so much as they bespeak the shared values and convictions of cultural communities, and are accordingly to be found in those edifices and open places where people regularly gather to commemorate those same values and convictions. Privacy was for centuries a privative concept, demarcating the dissociated and limited experience of persons cut off from and below the level of full social humanity.


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