You can't please everyone
I tend to think of visual art in terms of pictures hanging in a person's personal space.
A place without pictures seems very sterile.
I have this idea that art involves the 'aesthetic experience' which for me is a kind of mental feedback loop where looking causes the viewer to have a thought which causes another look which causes another thought . . . .
The thought can be anything from appreciation of beauty to a psychological insight but it brings the viewer back for more.
I like the idea. It fits with my own experience and it's an idea that I use in my own work.
One time I was friends with binners. These were scavengers who scoured the city for anything they could find of value.
A merchant at the Public Market would give away the coffee left in his pots at closing time and the binners would gather. I was working in a studio nearby too and would go for my free cup.
I like binners. Way generous people. They are a bit like hunter/gatherers; they give away their surplus because they can't carry it around and karma smiles on the generous.
One day one of them asked if I would liketo see where he lived.
I knew he lived outside. I'd done that myself. I was like honored.
He took me to a garden of bushes beside a bridge over a gully with railway tracks. The gully was sort of a wild zone in the city.
We looked around when nobody was watching ducked under the bushes and crawled on all fours - a path emerged in the woods by the tracks. Along the path was a plastic fantastic that was his home. The results of his scavenging were carefully organized. He had a snug dry place with a mattress and sleeping bag and a jug of wine.
He had pictures on his walls.
That struck me. I surmise that the pictures were part of what made the place feel like home to him.
But that's private art.
Public art serves a similar function in public spaces I think but there is a huge difference.
That's because private art only has to satisfy one person's (or a small group's) taste.
And though taste can vary very widely, with private art senses of taste don't conflict.
I may like chocolate and you like vanilla and she likes strawberry. Different tastes but since we have individual portions we can each be happy. It's different if we all need have just one flavor; some people will be dissatisfied. And that's kind of the situation of public art. The public isn't monolithic with a common taste. In fact, somebody is sure to be dissatisfied with anything that is installed in public.
So public art makes the public space more livable but also causes disagreement.
What is to be done?
In a democratic society the solution is basically a bureaucratic one. I looked at what Vancouver requires for public at proposals. Here's some pdf files that give guidance: https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/culture-public-art-civic-commission-procedure-2016.pdf https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/PublicArt-ConsiderationsForArtistsSubmitting.pdf https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/culture-public-art-policy-gifts-of-art-2016.pdf https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/Review_Guidelines_for_the_Donation_of_Public_Art_or_Memorials.pdf
Public art has to be safe and durable in a public space. There are a lot of engineering things to think about and many of the guidelines deal with that.
In Canada the aesthetic judgements tend to be made by committees of 'peers'. That is, a committee of artists decides on the aesthetic merit of a proposal.
And these committees are serious people - for them art is meant to be challenging.
I take a jaundiced view of that. What I've seen is that they choose work that is challenging to thee but not to me.
The upshot is that for a public art project to be completed a whole bunch of requirements must be met. It's the fact of all those requirements being met that justifies the installation against the complaints of those who dislike it.
Strange to say; the process seems to work.
This piece caused a big ruckus last summer.
https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/local-news/vancouver-nixes-location-for-controversial-boy-holding-a-shark-sculpture-3952622 I liked it. sigh
There is another kind of public art that doesn't go through that process at all. We call it graffiti and most of that is pretty good too. The artists don't exactly respect other's property though.
What do you think?