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Overview of Public Art

Public art has always been an inseparable part of Taipei’s cityscape. Our collective civic memory of the early days has bronze statues of great men standing at roundabouts and mosaic frescos below Jiantan Park. When the Regulations Governing the Installation of Public Artwork were passed in 1998, the installation of public art was overhauled from start to finish and artworks began to change established impressions. Now artworks were found in a variety of public spaces—metro stations, schools, government agencies, etc.—and in a variety of forms, such as holographic videos, glass collages, interactive installations, public benches, and so on.

The placement of public art in the urban context is not just about beautifying the living environment. In fact, urban development itself provides the basis for the generation of public art: the context of the site, the curatorial concept, and the artist’s creative techniques have varying degrees of impact on the city as living space. Therefore, public art is no longer limited to artistic expression itself. The process of creating public art, participation by local people, the manifestation of community awareness, and the interaction between public art and the environment together make the public space meaningful, somewhere that can become a bridge of communication between the people and their environment.

In recent years, public art has become more diverse and the idea behind setting up art in public spaces has gone beyond mere artistic creation. Instead, the discussion has gradually come to focus on public participation, communality, and environmental harmony, and there is a symbiosis between art installations and the features of their sites. Unlike “pure” artistic creation, public art and the artist’s creativity inevitably face many constraints from the external environment. The question is how to create art for public spaces that will complement the surrounding environment and gain recognition from local people. At the same time, the various aspects of artistic presentation, integration into the public space, and public participation must also be taken into account, so that public art can generate new value. Good public artworks gives the public a sense of identity and cohesion within the public space and the city where they live; it allows people to experience the aesthetics of space through the art.

In order to effectively promote public art, the Department of Cultural Affairs has set up a comprehensive Taipei City Public Art Information Network, which specifically focuses on public artwork in Taipei City, and has collated laws and regulations relating to public art, with links to the websites of relevant institutions. These resources will enable more people to discover the artistic surprises and delights that await in the city’s public spaces. It is also hoped that Taipei residents and agencies at all levels will thereby gain better understanding of and pay greater attention to the humanities, art, and the city landscape.