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What's That Thing?: British Public Art
Thu 23 March 2017, 19:00 – 23:00 GMT
The first AF/RCA Late, “What’s That Thing?” in partnership with The Spectator magazine will bring together artists, critics and architects as we attempt to get to the bottom of bad, and brilliant, public art.
Works of art increasingly inhabit and too often wreck the British public realm. Whether grand public commissions, street graffiti or performed acts in civic space, public art is playing a prominent and contested role in city-making. At best this work is popular, beautiful and compelling. At worst it is garish urban bling; costly and loathed.
Popular activist campaigns have admonished monuments to flawed heroes of yesteryear but past practices of public art-making seem inescapably more successful in creating powerful civic moments albeit with unsavoury subjects than today's culture can muster. Where has public art making gone wrong? What themes should (and shouldn't) public commissions explore and how important is the question of who foots the bill?
The event will span across multiple floors of the Royal College of Art with immersive performances and robust debates taking place concurrently exploring the politics, practice and purpose of pubic art. At the climax of the evening, Spectator critic and former director of the Design Museum Stephen Bayley will announce the winner of the Spectator’s annual award for bad public art followed by a party in the infamous Art Bar.