Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Stuart Collection Artists On Public Art

Last week, the Mayor recommended that the City Council temporarily suspend a program that was enacted in 2004 to fund public art works for city capital projects.

This announcement inspired a micro-conversation that lasted for about 24 hours, was held primarily on Twitter (def micro), and that involved mostly journalists, arts advocates, and a few for and against Prop D. I suspect the issue will be revisited in the coming weeks, when the Mayor's office reveals actual numbers, including how much money the city might save by suspending the art program and how many projects will die on the vine.

In the meantime, Voice of San Diego posed the question "What is the point of public art?"

It's obviously a very big question with a lot of scope - from the abstract to the practical.

This whole debate dovetailed with research I was doing for a These Days show on the Stuart Collection at UCSD. I came across this panel discussion featuring many of the artists who have work in that collection. The first section is moderated by Hugh Davies, and features world renown artists Robert Irwin, John Baldessari, Alexis Smith and Jackie Ferrara.

The second section is moderated by John Walsh (Getty Museum) and features Terry Allen, Bruce Nauman, Michael Asher and Elizabeth Murray.

They discuss what it's like to make public art. If one's trying to understand the point of public art, then one thread to follow is the perspective of the artists themselves. This panel includes some of the most insightful and established artists working today, talking about that very subject. It's an hour and a half long, but below the video I've listed some highlights you can skip ahead to.

Panel Discussion On UCSD's Stuart Collection

Artists Robert Irwin, John Baldessari, Alison talking about public art and their work in the Stuart Collection at UCSD.

15:00: Alexis Smith talks about the some of the challenges artists face working on big projects.

19:08 - 20:44: Robert Irwin talks about the thinking behind his work in the eucalyptus grove on campus.

23:07 - 26: 25: Robert Irwin compares other public art projects with the Stuart Collection and artist Jackie Ferrara weighs in on whether the collection is even public art.

26:50 - 28:33: John Baldessari: "It's art out in the gets messy...mixing with the world."

29:08 - 32:00: Robert Irwin makes nuanced distinction between public art and art in public spaces.

32:33: Alexis Smith on audience differences between museum and public art.

33:30: John Baldessari says public art is like having your furniture put out on the front lawn.

42:30 - 47:10: Robert Irwin on a project he was asked to do at Miami International Airport and how to integrate quality into a planning process.

49:03: John Walsh, Director Emeritus of the Getty Museum takes over moderating with a new artist panel.

53:50 -57:00: Terry Allen on his resistance to making public art for Stuart Collection and dealing with the "master plan."

58:40 - 59:44: Bruce Nauman calls Claus Oldenberg to find out how he set up contracts to get paid for public works (and a great joke I won't spoil)

1:01:52: Michael Asher talks about his piece "Untitled," the granite fountain.

1:06: Elizabeth Murray talks about how she doesn't like much public art.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.