Art Monthly 329: September 2009

Art Monthly cover
The Fall of Public Art

Dave Beech

The Future of Futurism

Christopher Townsend


Sally O'Reilly


David Briers

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7/7 memorial designed by Carmody Groarke 2009


Inside Out

Dave Beech on the fall of public art

When contemporary memorial sculptures are designed by architects to look like minimalist art of the 1960s, we know it is time to interrogate the reasons for the miserable state of public art. Has the lack of criticality in the genre actually sprung from a misunderstanding of the term 'public'?

'The fall of public art is assured if it hides from the tradition of critical thinking about the public and disowns the troublemaking strategies of contemporary art's engagement with the public in all its complexity and difficulty.'


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Gino Severini La Danse du 'Pan-Pan' au Monico 1909-11/1959-60


The Future of Futurism

Christopher Townsend on the contemporary (mis)use of Futurism

The exhibitions marking the centenary of Futurism highlight a problematic trend in recent historical surveys: the wish to make historical work, no matter how radically outmoded or wrong-headed it may be, somehow relevant to a contemporary audience. Isn't this trend narrowing our understanding of both art history and society rather than expanding and questioning it?

'Rather than we as subjects experiencing any radical call of otherness from the alienation of the past, the past must be safely homogenised with us, be made like us, to neuter any threat. Historical culture is acceptable only in terms of progress and achievement, in terms of its immediate use value.'



Empty Plinth

Antony Gormley's One & Other project for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square brings into focus many of the problems that beset public art today, as well as adding a few of its own for good measure.

'In reality, the whole project is just another example of the kind of risk-free, health and safety approved, highly administered experience that constitutes most public art today. One & Other is a perfect model of such practice, being populist, inclusive and above all participatory - pure New Labour.'


Students from Camberwell College of Arts bemoan the falling standards in higher education, in particular those of their own course.


The government has discovered a £100m hole in its capital budget (from which Tate Modern was promised £50m for its extension); Cultural Olympiad funding and projects begin to take shape; the UK is to have its own no-budget version of the European City of Culture initiative; staff at the Venice Biennale go on strike and picket the exhibition; gallery openings and closings; new online resources; and all the latest news on art world appointments, events, commissions and more.

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Charles Harrison 1942-2009
Tamara Krikorian 1944-2009
Tony Sinden 1946-2009
Dash Snow 1981-2009



PLOT09: This World & Nearer Ones

Spencer Finch

Kathy Battista

Boule to Braid

Mark Prince


Martin Herbert

The Agency of Words

David Briers

Collage London/New York

Marcus Verhagen

Quiet Revolution

Pryle Behrman

United Technologies

Chris Clarke

Marina Abramović Presents...

Bob Dickinson

Source Codes

Sarah James

State of the Art: New York

David Trigg

New York Round-up

Michael Wilson


Artists' Books


Sally O'Reilly on the collected edition of General Idea's magazine

'In 1977 Time/Life publishing brought a lawsuit against FILE for its use of capital letters on a red rectangle (as William Burroughs put it in an editorial quote, "pay back the red you stole"), which can be thought of as the ultimate achievement of their goal: the big fishes' recognition of the collective power of undercurrents.'



The Practice of Public Art

Paul Usherwood on an attempt to bring criticality to the discussion of public art

'"When did 'public art' become akin to a dirty word?" I was encouraged by the first line of this collection because it seems to signal that the assembled authors are prepared to acknowledge that public art is almost invariably installed with the primary purpose of furthering the interests of developers.'



Beatrice Gibson and Alex Waterman: A Necessary Music

Maria Fusco on a science-fiction film about modernist social housing

'Essentially an oblique study of the people and places of Roosevelt Island, the film succeeds in creating a solid environment that is not all it seems to be.'




Andrew Stooke on a collaborative project between three artist-run spaces

'The project, a sequence of actions more than of installations, brought together the artist-run groups Platform in Vaasa, Plan9 in Bristol and the independent Oliver Holt Gallery in Sherborne. Mark J Harris visited and made adaptations in a spirit of single-handed wage labour. "Institute" was to the gallery what the TV show Changing Rooms is to the home.'



Less is More

Colin Gleadell on the summer sales in London

'The increases in lots offered and the amount taken this summer may be an indication, as Christie's CEO Ed Dolman said, that "the bottom has already been reached".'



September exhibition listings

Art Monthly's exhibition listings can also be viewed online.

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