17 June 2005


COMMENT - South Editorial

Our new street art must be there for the public

Public art is an important element to bringing life to the streets and public buildings of any town or city.

Belfast for too long has been seen as a grey, war-weary city, and the introduction of good local street art and sculptures is to be welcomed as a sign we are finally moving away from our past.

When it comes to art, Belfast as a city should be about more than just tribalistic murals on gable walls.

In the past few years street art has arrived in our city with a vengeance, developed and commissioned by various government agencies and community organisations, and although some is without doubt better than others, it all has its place.

However, there is an exception, to every rule.

Plans revealed this week for a new giant sculpture at Belfast City Hall have received a mixed response from both the city fathers and bemused residents.
The unconventional looking sculpture of a naked woman will stand some 50ft high and will no doubt raise a few eyebrows from passers by.

However, it remains to be seen how this £300,000 piece of sculpture will add to the image of our city.

Will this expensive sculpture help put us on a par with places such as Prague, Rome and Barcelona? Or will this statuesque woman bring more ridicule than tourism revenue?

To create a beautiful city money must be spent on regeneration and art plays an important part in that rebirth.

But let that art reflect the history of our city and the aspirations of its people, rather that the fantasises of an individual or a socially detached group of artisans.

When you buy a piece of art for your own home, should it be a an expensive understated oil or a print of dogs playing snooker, you buy it because it reflects your own personal taste.

But public art that is placed in city centres, parks and public buildings has to be looked at by all the people of this city and cannot be just one person’s vision. Huge sums of money, whether public or raised privately are spent as an investment in the future of our city.

Public art should be about just that – the public. And when it comes to placing huge and expensive pieces of art at heart of our city, the public should have their say and it should be their will that is heeded at the end of the day.
We hope that the people will make their voice heard.

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