Art Appreciation – John Paul II or Mussolini?
By Michelle Binkley
This story has been in the news lately and I thought it worth a mention as it leads me to think of a viewer’s objective or subjective enjoyment of public art.
The story goes like this: a large bronze public art piece of Pope John Paul II was erected in front of Rome’s main train terminal, and even though the powers that be agreed to the design in the conception and execution stages, now that it is in place a large number of the general public don’t like it. They claim it looks too much like Italian dictator Mussolini, and it should be removed.
So it gets me thinking about the general process of public art selection (which varies from city to city around the globe) whereby a small group of knowledgeable art people make a decision about a piece of artwork. Usually they choose between a short list of Artists who have submitted ideas. But what of the collective public who will have that artwork in their community? What if the public doesn’t like it, or deems it inappropriate? Who decides the outcome?
Are people accepting and trusting of the public art selection process in their city or do they really care? Should the selection committee make a decision based on objective opinion or does the viewers’ subjective voice matter?
Not every piece of art will satisfy every member of the community, but to some degree the public art selection process is flawed when so many people feel so strongly against a particular sculpture of Mussolini – oops, I meant Pope John Paul II.