Public sculptures, installations and paintings are great ways to bring art to the masses. Instead of hiding behind gallery walls, public works of art are out and about in the community, breaking up the monotony of everyday life and encouraging residents and visitors to stop and think about the world around them.
It would be easier to make a list of the 10 worst pieces of public art (a 26-foot tall, 40,000 pound Marilyn Monroe statue? Seriously?) but instead I’ve scoured the globe for the best of the best. From faux 19th century walls to 7,600 square foot aboriginal paintings, here are some of the greatest public works of art ever created.
Cloud Gate - Chicago
More commonly known as the “Chicago Bean,” Cloud Gate is the centrepiece of the AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park. It was created by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor and is made up of over 168 stainless steel plates welded together and sanded to a seamless finish. The sculpture is 33 by 66 by 42 feet and weighs a whopping 100 tons—almost double the original estimated weight.
And in case you’re wondering, the lower 6 feet of Cloud Gate is wiped down twice a day by hand, while the entire sculpture is cleaned twice a year.
Folly Wall - Barking Town Square, Greater London
Resembling a ruin, this 7 metre high wall is actually disguising the back end of a supermarket. Artists constructed it from 19th century architectural salvage materials to evoke the red-brick facades of Barking’s old buildings. In addition, the wall is planted with indigenous species that will eventually overrun and colonize the wall crevices.
Angel of the North - Gateshead, England
This enormous steel sculpture towers 60 feet over the edge of the Great North Forest in northeastern England. Despite its impressive wingspan—177 feet—the sculpture cas withstand winds of over 100 mph. Work began on the project in 1994 and cost £1 million, most of which was provided by the National Lottery.
Orwell Vancouver Mural - Vancouver, British Columbia
At 7,600 square feet, the Orwell Hotel Mural Project is the largest in Western Canada. Named “Through the Raven’s Eye,” the 120 by 79 foot mural was created by a talented team of urban Aborginal arists and has quickly become a positive landmark in Vancouver’s troubled Downtown Eastside community.
Federation Bells - Melbourne, Australia
The Federation Bells is an interactive sound sculpture located in Birrarung Marr, Melbourne. The 36 upturned bells are struck by computer controlled hammers, similar to an automated carillon, but are dispersed across a small field rather than hidden in a tower. People can walk freely amongst the bells to view the different shapes and hear how they sound.
East Side Gallery - Berlin
The East Side Gallery is a 1.3 km long painted section of the Berlin Wall along the Mühlenstrasse in former East Berlin. An international memorial for freedom, it was created in 1990 by 118 artists from 21 countries. The East Side Gallery is the largest (and possibly longest-lasting) open-air gallery in the world.