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Open Philosophy

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When Public Art Goes Bad: Two Competing Features of Public Art

Mary Beth Willard
Published Online: 2019-01-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opphil-2019-0001


Not all public art is bad art, but when public art is bad, it tends to be bad in an identifiable way. In this paper, I develop a Waltonian theory of the category of public art, according to which public art standardly is both accessible to the public and minimally site-specific. When a work lacks the standard features of the category to which it belongs, appreciators tend to perceive the work as aesthetically flawed. I then compare and contrast cases of successful and unsuccessful public art to show that accessibility and site-specificity are features which tend to preclude the other. It is difficult, although hardly impossible, for a site-specific work to remain accessible, and difficult for an accessible work to engage adequately with the site on which it is situated. As a result, while not all public art is bad, the features peculiar to public work encourage a latent tendency toward badness.

Keywords: art; aesthetics; categories of art; public art; monuments; memorials; philosophy of art


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About the article

Received: 2018-10-31

Accepted: 2018-11-09

Published Online: 2019-01-18

Published in Print: 2019-01-01

Citation Information: Open Philosophy, Volume 2, Issue 1, Pages 1–9, ISSN (Online) 2543-8875, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opphil-2019-0001.

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© by Mary Beth Willard, published by De Gruyter Open. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License. BY 4.0

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