Public Art Across Time, Space and Scale

BALLOON FLOWER (RED) ARTIST: Jeff Koons, New York (2006) The chromium stainless steel with transparent color coatings stands in bold contrast to the gray stone, concrete and marble of the surrounding structures.

Text and Photographs by Rajnish Wattas

The photo mosaic of modern public art works depicted from select global cities showcases varying strands of creativity and contexts, spread across cultures and geographies. They engage, correspond and respond to the socio- cultural milieus of their settings—appropriate to time, space and scale. The showcased works of artists range from the iconic to the not so famous, in spaces big and small, in materials raw and glossy, built for permanence or transience. Public art works of legendry names such as Pablo Picasso (the only one of its kind in Chicago), Anish Kapur and Alexander Calder among others, located in the vibrant metropolises of New York, Chicago, Hartford, Boston and London or in a sleepy hamlet of Switzerland, are included.

Liberated from the confines of museums or similar such repositories, displayed out in the open and staged in public domains accessible to all, these works express, reflect, engage or provoke ideas—ranging from the sublime to the raw, permanent to the ephemeral. They explore traditional as well as new mediums, such as temporary installations and interactive/digital public art works. They introduce social ideas but leave room for the public to come to its own conclusions.

An exhibition of 60 such works was displayed in Chandigarh recently—a city itself conceived as an extended urban art form by its iconic artist-architect- planner Le Corbusier. The exhibition aimed at stirring a dialogue on symbiosis between art, architecture and the public space. This would then deepen further the ‘citizen-city’ connect, lived through the everyday experience of art in the public domain.

Rajnish Wattas, a former principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, is a noted architectural critic, author and Chandigarh’s modern heritage expert