Neglected public art Who is responsible for maintaining our city’s public art?
In April I had the pleasure of speaking with the Fabric Workshop and Museum’s guest curator, John G. Hanhardt, about his exhibition Changing Scenes: Points of View in Contemporary Media Art. As we chatted about his work, and the artists featured in the exhibition, Hanhardt expressed a special fondness for his friend and collaborator, Korean American artist, the late Nam June Paik.
Widely recognized as the founder of video art, Paik’s prolific work, and the concepts behind it, foreshadowed the information age and explored its potential at the period’s genesis. He is said to have coined the term “electronic super highway.” Paik also believed in a future that included a “Video Common Market,” a visual platform for telecommunications, which some suggest came into fruition with YouTube. Paik re-envisioned an isolating medium and fashioned it into a tool of inclusion and communication. No video artist can say that they haven’t been influenced by Paik’s pioneering work.
As Hanhardt discussed his past and present with Paik—alluding to the exhibition Nam June Paik: Global Visionary he curated at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC—I couldn’t help but to mention the poor condition of one of Paik’s lesser known instillations, and his only permanent outdoor public art piece, that resides in our very own backyard: Video Arbor. Hanhardt’s face sunk. “That’s a shame,” he said followed by a brief moment of silence and a modest suggestion, “something should be done.” Hanhardt raced through a handful of possible solutions, but the statement stuck with me. Who is responsible for the neglect of this important work of art and what should be done about it?