Civic Society chairman criticises council public art

April 7, 2011 3 Comments »
Civic Society chairman criticises council public art

without place

The chairman of Cardiff’s Civic Society has criticised works of public art across the city, saying that they give the capital “no sense of pride”.

At a presentation about public art in Cardiff, Peter Cox said the art was not of the quality of a capital city and that it did not live up to “truly monumental” standards.

He also criticised the council’s public art policy, saying it needed to do more about the upkeep of the art that was already in the city, and that many pieces had been placed without any thought given to their surroundings.

“There is a new register of all these works and it maps all of them,” he said.

“But the register is extremely sparse. It deals with what the piece is called, who made it and when it was put there, but there is no insight into who commissioned it and why or what its relevance is or who put it there. It’s good news that we have got it but sadly, if we wanted to say to someone ‘what are the 10 things in Cardiff that I want you to see?’, it would not let you do that.

“We should be able to look out and see a world that is pleasing to the eye, an environment that is pleasant to interact with.”

He was critical of pieces such as the miner and the family statues on Queen Street and the new Without A Place sculpture of a giant chair with a film reel and pestle and mortar, which has recently been placed on Charles Street.

However, he had praise for pieces such as the All Hands sculpture on Custom House Street and the Wind Hedge Assembly Field outside the Senedd.

He said: “It’s great to able to claim that we have got 200 or more pieces of public art, but what are they for? What value do we attach to them and are they really the best, as a capital city, that we can do? Where do we have that sense of civic pride? Where in Cardiff is the truly monumental?”

A Cardiff council spokesman said: “Cardiff council is very proud of the city’s public art. Art has always provoked lively comment and debate and we welcome any views that our collection triggers. Public art covers a wide range of disciplines and artworks are commissioned by a variety of groups and organisations that reflect the diversity of the city.

“The council’s commitment ensures artworks form an integral part of the many landmark developments in Cardiff. The latest piece – Without Place on Charles Street – reflects that particular street’s heritage in a striking way and again we welcome the debate it engenders as it takes its place on our newly-established register of public art.

“Cardiff is one the few councils to publish a register of its public artworks, we are confident it represents an excellent resource for anyone with an interest in this important aspect of public life.”

What do you think about the new public art in the city? Good idea? Terrible one? Let us know your views in the comments below

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  1. Carl Morris April 7, 2011 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Yesterday I noticed the new sculpture with the poem Ballast Bank by Peter Finch on it, which celebrates Cardiff's ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity.

    An intriguing piece but I wanted to know why it was put directly in front of Cardiff Bay Police Station? The location changes the experience, in possibly unintentional ways. Just asking.

  2. @peterdcox April 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    Delighted that Julia was able to be with us and it's perhaps inevitable that she focusses a bit too much on what seems to be negative. On the whole I painted a picture – I hope – of massive development of public art in the city over the past 40 years but posed the questions that we were asking then and finding that they were still valid questions.
    The idea of this series of events is to ask questions, and create a space for debate about what our city looks like. We encourage a diversity of view but don't start from the point of just accepting that something is 'good' because it's there.
    The Civic Society greatly welcomes the new Register and its accompanying map online: I made the point that it could be more detailed, more user friendly and exploit the internet technology better. Fair points I feel and critical only in the sense that I'd like to see all that work made more effective.
    Of course views on art are subjective: I talked about things I like, and dislike. I am sure that Julia will agree that the debate was informed, wide ranging and positive.

  3. Nathan Collins April 9, 2011 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    Public art in Cardiff is seemingly very random, so it does need some context and you would think the register would be the place to put it – but it is half baked.

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