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From NYC to Dubai - Public Art Heats Up for the Summer

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After a long, cold winter of hibernating inside museums, artists venture out into the heat this summer to create art in the public realm. Cities around the world are gearing up for the sunny season by commissioning public art projects, helping to create a local sense of place and identity. From the parks of New York to the streets of Dubai, exciting outdoor installations are debuting just in time for Summer 2012 - what can you expect to find in a city near you?

Traditionally, public art appears in the form of monuments and statues to convey clear educational messages, commemorating important people or events in history. Playing on this established norm, a group of artists will kick off the summer in New York by creating unique civic dialogue with the exhibition Common Ground (pictured below left). Using non-traditional materials and performances, these artists seek to renew themes of iconography from classical sculpture, by using symbols, images, language and metaphors to depict the relationship between individual and society. Beginning May 24, 2012, this group of artists can be found around the clock engaging the public in City Hall Park.

MutualArt.com imageAlso sponsored by New York Public Art Fund, Italian artist Paola Pivi will debut her first public art project in the United States on June 20th with the installation How I Roll, showcasing the unexpected - a Piper Seneca in the middle of Central Park. Look out for this twin engine plane slowly rotating on steel posts attached to its wing tips, juxtaposing the busy Manhattan center. Across town, Oscar Tuazon is commissioned to present three new sculptures opening on July 19th in Brooklyn Bridge Park, the third installment of the Public Art Fund's summer series. Responding to the surrounding landscape, his sculptures uniquely combine natural materials and industrial building methods by featuring local trees and cement casting to activate the space.

While New Yorkers will interact with these installations in the most developed parks around their city, four curators in Berlin take a different approach by planning public art to revitalize an abandoned amusement park on the periphery. A once-beloved site (pictured above) which opened in East Berlin in 1969, now Kulturpark Planterwald remains dormant, with graffiti-covered dinosaurs lying on their sides in the overgrown grass next to leftover vintage rides, including a giant ferris wheel and pirate ship. Hauntingly magical in its forgotten state, the park is begging for this Kulturpark art installation, which will feature site-specific work from artists from around the world who will spend three weeks in residency. The reactivated ruins will invoke collective memory and fantasies with its new opening, taking place on June 28, to coincide with the last week of the Berlin Biennale.

Perhaps logistically more challenging, Jessica Stockholder will transform a prominent intersection in downtownMutualArt.com image Chicago into a three-dimensional work of art (pictured right). Containing flashes of color and geometric shapes flowing from the buildings, it will make those on the sidewalks and streets feel as though they are part of an animated film. Transfixed by color, this artist chosen by the Chicago Loop Alliance is relatively new to the public art scene, but certainly no stranger to sculpture and site-specific installations. Stockholder's appropriately titled installation - Color Jam - will soon be installed and officially will open on State Street in June. (Check out MutualArt's feature Color Jam in Chicago here)

MutualArt.com imageAnother prominent example of outdoor art this season is Anish Kapoor's £22.7 million tower, unveiled last week in preparation for London's Summer Olympic Games (pictured left). At 115 meters (377ft) high, "prominent" is a gross understatement considering the ArcelorMittal Orbit (named after the steel company which footed most of the bill) is taller than Big Ben and the Statue of Liberty. Britain's largest piece of public art, made from 2,000 tons of steel sitting next to Olympic Stadium is evoking quite the heated controversy, spiraling in what some some call "a roller coaster out of control." Others love the tower's unconventional beauty, and the artist confidently defends the experimental design in the media, claiming the public will grow to love it. More important than an argument of aesthetic preferences, however, is the raised debate and new dialogue on the purpose of public art.

Meanwhile, residents of Dubai are making a strong case for more public art, according to Gulf News. "OutdoorMutualArt.com image Art Project 2012" also opened last week in the Business Bay section of Dubai, showcasing 12 artists from or working in the United Arab Emirates. An exemplary project, each artist was commissioned to create billboard-sized art pieces in key locations around the city, responding to the prompt 'This is Dubai, the city that I lived.' Not only does public art strengthen the cultural identities of cities around the world, these installations make art accessible to all of us. So make sure to check out the art appearing outside in your city this summer while you enjoy time in the sunshine.

Written by MutualArt's Christine Bednarz

Is public art meaningful to you?  Which installations are popping up in your city this season?  What do you think of London's"Oribit"? Is it worth the price tag?