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Public Art: Is It Art?
Kim Min-sok  |  phil98@cau.ac.kr
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승인 2017.11.04  00:13:13
트위터 페이스북 미투데이 요즘 네이버 구글 msn
           A well-decorated piece of public art is proudly introduced as the pride of citizens, not to mention its role as a “landmark” representing the identity of a city. However, it seems the public art business is in a slump recently, compared to its successful past. Just look at the “Shoe Tree” of Seoul Station Square, and you will notice the problem. Although ambitiously planned by Seoul-si, this project failed to fulfill its original purpose (looking back on consumer culture full of overspending and lavishness), being torn down just nine days after its installment. “Amabel” of POSCO center artistically displayed the debris of an airplane, but was unfortunately included in “The 10 Most Hated Public Sculptures” by Artnet News. But to make matters worse, ugliness is not the only problem of the recent public art business.
           The “Shoe Tree” of Seoul-si used up more than 120 thousand dollars of the city expenses, and also a Seoul-si masterpiece, “Monster” is more expensive as 160 thousand dollars. The jumbo iron pot of Goesan-gun, which attempted to break the Guinness World Records (but failed), used 450 thousand dollars only in its installment and now eats up maintenance costs as well. For the past twenty years, the public art business exhausted a total of about 9 million dollars. It is hard not to feel frustrated when citizens know how much of their money has been spent just to set up horrid statues everywhere. Then, are those sculptures even art? Not really, considering how each of them look alike. In fact, according to YTN’s research, 80% of all public art were statues and many of those public artists produce twenty similar pieces annually. It is quite difficult to figure out whether the purpose of public art is to express artistic quality, or to emphasize “quantity.”

           Public art is gradually losing its identity as landmarks, and only seems as a waste in the fancy name of art. If they are truly “public” sculptures, debate on their appropriateness must come first, since the public has a right to know where their precious tax is used on each piece of artwork. In order not to produce the second “Shoe Tree” or the “Amabel,” public art business directors will need to think before acting. 

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