The concept of Public Art became popular in the USA during the 1960’s, and was introduced into Taiwan during the 1980’s. However, it wasn’t until the ‘90’s that Public Art really became a part of our lives. These tumultuous beginnings, and the policy of “Establishing Integrated Communities”, promoted among localities by the national government, have made possible the transformation of Taiwan’s public spaces.

The role of Public Art in urban spaces is much more diverse than one simply of ‘beautification”. Over the fifteen-year history of the Public Art movement in Taiwan, a startling array of project installations have come to grace our living spaces. Under the policy guidance and direction of the CCA ( ) ( ), art objects including painting, calligraphy, photography, statuary, two- and three- dimensional industrial- and technologically-oriented art, commemorative monuments/pillars, outdoor furniture, suspended art, and systemic art all have become media vehicles for artistic expression on the island. However, Public Art currently executed as a form of mass communication lacks an interactive element that limits contact, and is failing to fulfill its functional potential.



Public Art in Taiwan traces its origins back to the mid-1980’s. Martial law was still in force at the time, but pressure for more autonomy in Taiwanese society was already on the rise. There was a growing desire for higher living standards and a more comfortable environment. Such conditions are fertile ground for Public Art, as beautification and other environmental enhancement become priorities. The movement developed quickly from these roots.

Concurrent with the policy efforts of the CCA, nine major Public Art projects in cities and counties proceeded in lockstep, including those of the Taipei Train Station, the Taipei MRT system and others. Among these, the Taipei MRT was perhaps the most ambitious, finishing the first installation in 1995, 委任創作及公開徵件 and executing large collective pieces.

In addition, activities co-sponsored by the CCA and private groups were effective promotional exercises. These included, in 1991, the first “Seminar on Art and the Environment”, followed by a second in 1993. Topics discussed included preservation of historic sites, the aesthetification of living environments, and urban planning.

These seminars were instrumental in bringing the Public Art movement to the fore. Planning commenced for nine chosen major projects island-wide, and a budget of NT$ 100 million (US$ 3.3 million) was allocated. The scope of the project caused a flurry of activity among the artistic community, which concerned itself particularly with Public Art’s prescription (as defined by the CCA) and the requirements (in terms of experience and so forth) for participation.Exposition of relevant definitions and regulations begins with Article 2, Item 9 of the Ordinance on Cultural and Artistic Subsidies of 1993: “Those executing public construction works shall commit a minimum of one percent of total construction costs to artistic and aesthetically significant elements intended to beautify the environs; furthermore, large scale governmental public works projects shall include installations of artistic works to beautify the environment”.

The Implementation Addenda to Ordinance on Cultural and Artistic Subsidies, promulgated in April of 1993, clarified xxx, and attempted to further distill the concept of “Public Art” toward its essence. Article Nine states, “Artistic works include paintings, craftsmanship, calligraphy, sculpture, murals, photography and any other objects resulting from artistic creation that utilize appropriate media in their execution. Artistic works, as categorized above, shall be set, fixed, hung or otherwise installed in or on a structure or area not limited in access to particular groups or individuals.”
In May of 1998, the Ordinance was amended to read, “Artistic works include paintings, calligraphy, photography, sculpture, and skillfully crafted flat or three dimensional artistic objects, commemorative monuments, 水景、戶外傢俱 , suspended objects, or 裝置藝術 that utilize appropriate media in their execution. Artistic works, as categorized above, shall be set, fixed, hung or otherwise installed in or on a structure or area not limited in access to particular groups or individuals.” This amendment broadened the scope of the definition to include objects of a more functional nature, in addition to those of a purely decorative or ornamental nature.


In traditional European culture, the concept of Public Art is closely bound to a prevailing sense of community and its effect upon the utility of public spaces. The question of commonality colors every aspect of the use of a public space, be it from the perspective of the designer, the builder or any other involved party. Religious art and the church have played a major role in Public Art’s development, with the USA interpreting earlier trends set in Europe.

  France was a pioneer in the Public Art movement. Its Parliament tabled Public Art funding legislation (the now-ubiquitous “One Percent” funding model) as early as 1936; it was only in 1951, however, that the bill became law. It stipulated that one percent of the construction and/or renovation budgets for schools and universities should be used to fund Public Art projects. In the period 1971-82, the scope of the law was gradually expanded to include other public construction projects, and in 1986 the French government established the Arts Committee as a body charged with implementation oversight and review. At the same time, the government supplemented and revised all definitions, elaborations and content pertaining to Public Art and its installation. This body of laws was again revised and codified in April of 2004. The French government expends great resources and effort upon the realm of Public Art, a clear signal of its importance in French society.

Chinese Shadows ,
Guy de Rougemont,France



The origins of the Public Art movement in the USA can be traced back to former President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” (a government program designed to spur economic growth and employment) and the resulting “WPA-Works progress Administration-Federal Art Project” of the 1930s and 40’s. While the primary objective of the New Deal was to stimulate the economy, it provided a major opportunity for interaction between the artistic community and society as a whole, and was a crucial early impetus behind Public Art in the United States.


Green House Proposal, Dennis Oppenheim,U.S.

After 1960, the National Endowment for the Arts became active in many types of projects involving public spaces; its support of Philadelphia’s “One Percent” funding model initiated a wave of interest among municipal governments nationwide and improved the prospects for national subsidies. In 1965, the City on New York decreed that a percentage of public engineering allocations be put toward Public Art projects. However, the regulations weren’t completely implemented, until in 1982 the Public Art Fund was established under the “Percent for Art Program”. After 1986, the Public Art Division of the Council for the Arts commonly would pursue the design and installation of projects by inviting parties to submit project design and execution plans for scheduled installations, allowing six weeks for plans completion. An ad-hoc committee, or “Panel” would be established to evaluate the plan, establish or clarify its objectives and standards, allocate responsibility according to the parameters of the project, and to identify qualified, appropriate personnel from either database information or a list of recommended individuals or organizations to carry out the project.


In 1998, after the Socialist SPD and the Green Party took control of the government, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder created theBureau of Culture, in an effort to preserve the neglected historical sites of the former East Germany, and to support artistic and cinematic development, especially among young artists. In 2001, the second Dirrector of the Bureau of Culture, Julian Nida-Rumelin, established “Die Stiftung der Bunderepublik Deutschland fur Kunst und Kultur”.
In Germany, Public Art is not regulated by the central government, the country having adopted in the 1950’s a federal system and “One Percent” model similar to that of to France. The traditional phrase used for “Public Art” in Germany, “Kunst am bau”, relates art works to their installation as accompaniment to structural elements, including windows, roofs, floors, courtyards and any other related constructions. The origin of this ideal lies in a movement of artistic renaissance (BAUHAUS?) that sought to incorporate elements or art into every aspect of construction and landscape design and execution, and to incorporate public spaces into same, bringing art into closer contact with everyday lives and people.
Architects and builders viewed the execution of a “One percent” policy case as a consensual process outside the realm of regulatory action, with the architect’s recommendation or a public ballot determining the nature of the piece and the artist to execute it. Funding for Public Art projects also came from private donations, often a result of philanthropy or the desire of a young artist to make his or her work known.

Japan’s Public Art movement underwent quite a long period of incubation prior to its birth. During the 1950’s and 60’s, many artists from Japan spent their days reveling in the ambience of the public parks, squares, sculptures, commemorative objects, and promenades of European cities. From these experiences grew the “Open Air Sculpture Movement”, the start of Public Art in Japan, and other similar movements to follow.

Space of Peace,Satoru Sato,Japan

In 1958, the commissioning by Parks Administration of the XXX statue in the plaza fronting the XXX Station provoked a great deal of discussion worldwide, and eventually gave birth to the “Sculpture Alley” movement, and the emergence of open air sculpture competitions in which many notable artists participated. By 1975, with Japan enjoying per capita income figures on a par with Europe and the USA, and the rising expectations of its people with regard to culture and living standards, the government came up with a series of initiatives, including the “Cultural Era”. Later, the “Localization Era” sought to devolve authority from the center to municipalities. These two movements, concurrent and mutually reinforcing, led in 1978 to the implementation of a “One Percent” funding model on a national level. The participation of 17 prefectures and 20 municipalities lent great impetus to the Public Art movement in Japan.

It is interesting to note that the central government did not set any standard criteria for the execution of Public Art works, nor did it set up any type of national fund to subsidize projects. The Japanese Public Arts movement has been reliant upon local governments from almost the beginning, and the results have been quite impressive.



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