International Journal of Art & Design Education

Public Art: The Problems and Potential of Multiple Meanings

Volume 16.2   1997



Public art is not just sculpture and mural painting: it can appear in a variety of media and be long-lasting or transient. It is found in city squares, and secluded countryside; in National Health Service hospitals and the national headquarters of major companies. Public art can now be studied at any level from primary to postgraduate, and because art and its context are so closely related in these settings beyond the gallery, it affords a particularly rich object of analysis for all age groups. What has so far received relatively little attention is the way in which public art is read. An examination of works of art from France and America reveals that visual literacy cannot be seen in isolation, for how we read depends as much on what we bring to our reading as it does on the text or image we seek to understand.