Roberta Smith's piece in the Times today is essential reading for anybody interested in the relationship between artist and institution, but that's not why I'm posting about it here. In the midst of her article is a paragraph that, for my money, goes to the center of why public art is so important. Money quote:
"Although museums still focus most of their energy on finished works that they believe should be shown or collected, they now routinely function as patrons, using their budgets to help artists create works from scratch. They have happily become producers because these days installation artworks are often crowd pleasers, circuslike in their appeal. Viewers gasp at their scale or their sensational optical effects, as with Sleepwalkers, the Doug Aitken video display on the Museum of Modern Art’s facades last winter."
There you have it. The moment the light gets in. Shall we count the times over the years that, their mouth agape, some unsuspecting gawker finds themselves unexpectedly moved by public art. We usually think art is going to enter through the eyes, but that's not always the case. Sometimes it sings into our mouths, and it's a love song.