5 Questions on Public Art with Marc Pottier

Jan 5, 2016

With his extensive experience in curating public art projects, Marc Pottier shares his insights on the role public art plays in shaping culturally vibrant communities and what must be considered.

What is the process for proposing public art in a location, and what kind of restrictions do you encounter?
With Public Art, creation starts from the pedestal, opening new dialogues and situations, creating a museum without walls or a new artistic vision in the open air. Contemporary creation in public spaces establishes a new and rich conversation between town planners, architects, landscape gardeners, artists, designers, sociologists and the public at large; creation in the open air is done with and for everyone, concerned or not by Art. Today, Public Art is no more an art of statuary put in squares, gardens or parks. Public Art is done site specifically and cannot be sold, becoming, when not linked to a temporary event, part of an indefectible patrimony. Today main restrictions are linked to security and budget.

How long can it take to install a public work of art and how long does it stay on site?
This depends on the scale of the project. It depends on the location. Diversity and openness are also key aspects of this adventure. Artists can work on sidewalks or street lamps; in airports, railway or subway stations; parking lots or rivers; use sounds, lights or video projections; paint on different buildings; create an ephemeral or permanent work. Almost anything is possible or at least imaginable with Public Art.

How are artists advised when creating art in terms of conservation and longevity due to external factors such as weather?
More and more, artists like and want to interact differently, looking for new challenges with nothing to do with “objects” of the art market. With Bauhaus, De Stijl, Land Art and Earth Art, they are regularly concerned with the city and the landscape; they even claim the right of Art to be integrated to the day-to-day life, participating to the urban conception, re-qualification of a site or conception of public’s equipment. All works with Public Art today are dialogues with the client, neighbors, engineers… with the artist. Weather does not appear to be a major problem.

Who is responsible for maintaining the work of art – cleaning / removing dirt and graffiti, repairs, etc. – and how are preservation techniques used?
The client is responsible for maintaining the work. Projects have directions and precise supporting documents, guaranteeing the art’s quality in the future, even after the artists’ death. Nonetheless, this is rarely respected. For example, Daniel Buren wanted to dismantle his famous “Les Deux Plateaux / Colonnes de Buren” at Palais Royal in Paris after 20 years because the work has been 50% destroyed by the state due to a lack of maintenance. This is a key problem, which also exists with architecture. Maintenance techniques depend on the projects.

Why are public art collections important to a city?
When well-done, public art collections become symbols of a city. For example, in Chicago, the Millennium Park is now part of the personality of the city with Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” or the Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa. The famous “Christ” by Landowski symbolizes Rio de Janeiro. A lot of people are going to Wynwood in Miami to see the Street Art. This attracts a lot of people happy to discover culture. Today, Public Art is a process of thoughts and unlimited experimentation, which is in favor of putting citizens face to face with the art from their generation without any hierarchy between Art and its environment. Participation of the public is more and more often asked, and opportunities of amazing treasure hunting exists at Biennales and events offering temporary installations and experiences.

Marc Pottier, curator and author
Trained as an auctioneer in Paris (Etude Briest, today Artcurial), Marc joined Urban, a Japanese modern and contemporary art collection based both in Nagoya, Tokyo, New-York and Paris. He then spent six years in New York as an independent curator organizing exhibitions in the USA, Europe and Brazil. He joined the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Cultural Attaché in Rio de Janeiro and then Lisbon where he also organized and curated exhibitions and events, such as Picasso’s ceramics or Luzboa the first Biennale of the Art of Light. In 2007, he started his own company developing international curatorship with a focus on community culture and gardens between Europe, Brazil and Middle East. He opened a branch of his company in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 where he is now based. Marc is the author of  “Made by Brazilians” (Enrico Navarra Publishers), which includes accounts by 230 people who represent the Brazilian Contemporary art world, and the curator of various exhibitions, including www.feitoporbrasileiros.com.br 2014. He was the guest curator for the 3a Bienal da Bahia 2014. Today he creates and hosts a weekly TV program on Arte1, the Brazilian cultural channel: ‘Olhar Estrangeiro, cidade Rio de Janeiro’. Contact: marc.pottier.art@gmail.com