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Art Through Time: A Global View

The Urban Experience Compare: What Is the Function of Art in Public Places?

The Gates, Project for Central Park, New York

The Gates, Project for Central Park, New York
Artist / Origin: Christo (American, Bulgarian-born, b. 1935) and Jeanne-Claude (American, French-born, 1935-2009)
Region: North America
Date: 1979–2005
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Vinyl poles, nylon fabric, and metal bases
Medium: Architecture and Planning
Dimensions: H: 16 ft. (4.8 m.) (each gate)
Location: New York, NY (temporary installation)
Credit: © Alan Schein Photography/CORBIS

Bartolomeo Colleoni

Bartolomeo Colleoni
Artist / Origin: Andrea del Verrocchio (Italian, 1435–1488)
Region: Europe
Date: 1480s
Period: 1400 CE – 1800 CE
Material: Bronze
Medium: Sculpture
Dimensions: H: 155.5 in. (395 cm.) (without base)
Location: Campo di SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Venice, Italy
Credit: © Adam Woolfitt/CORBIS

What is the function of art in public places?

Art in public spaces is sometimes, but not always, civic in nature. There are countless and diverse reasons why people create art that is widely accessible to urban populations. Those reasons are often bound up with the specifics of the site and the identity of the population for which the work is made, as these two examples demonstrate.

Questions to Consider

  • The Gates was set up in a public park. Verrocchio’s equestrian monument depicting Bartolomeo Colleoni was erected in a public square. How do you think each of these works responds to its particular environment? How might the environment have influenced a viewer’s experience of the work in twenty-first-century New York and fifteenth-century Venice, respectively?
  • One of the works might be described as abstract or conceptual in nature. The other is figurative. How does the form of each further its intended meaning and purpose?
  • The Gates is part of a centuries-long tradition of art in the public sphere to which the Equestrian Monument of Colleonialso belongs. How do you think that The Gates responds directly or indirectly to this tradition? Do you think this work could have been created in the fifteenth century? Why or why not?

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Art Through Time: A Global View


Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
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