6th Swiss Scultpure Exhibition Biel

Maurice Ziegler

Art in the Public Realm 

By "art in the public realm", we mean any kind of fine arts – sculpture, painting, relief, as well

as "environment" and outdoor design. The most important criterion for this type of art remains its public accessibility.

What is the difference between art in the public realm and works of art exhibited in a museum? The difference lies in the perception of this art; hence, it also concerns the viewer. It is a question of contact. The art-lover deliberately visits a museum to concentrate on works of art presented in a purpose-designed setting. The situation is very different in the public realm where the work of art becomes part of what may be a complex setting, one object among many to be sensed and vaguely perceived rather than seen and studied with deliberation. Let us consider an oft-observed occurrence which may illustrate this behaviour: if a work of art is placed and unveiled in the public realm, attention focuses on the new object which shines in its "moment of glory". But how long before people have become used to such a work of art, until they no longer notice it, until they forget it is even there? This tendency to become accustomed and to forget is accelerated if the work in question is located in an inadequate, hostile setting, in spaces and architectural structures for which it was not created. We must ask ourselves whether works of art might not be placed in such a way that they retain their impact, remaining active and effective contributions to our oft-mentioned quality of life. This is the kind of objective that art in the public realm should be associated with; only then would it find its actual meaning. And then it would also be able to penetrate into public consciousness, into people's everyday lives. Also, rather than being considered foreign bodies, rather than being taken for granted and forgotten, such works of art would acquire the function of something natural, self-evident, of something pleasant and beautiful that people would not want to miss.

In earlier times, works of art and sculptures had to play specific roles, both in architecture and in the built environment. The acceptance of such roles and our awareness of them has been lost. We must now step away from the notion of individual works of art which can be used, more or less accidentally, to "decorate" a building. Any artistic contribution should be an integral part of the architectural process so that it may produce a specific "atmosphere" in conjunction with the architecture. We need the artist to render the "civilised" world in which we live more inhabitable.

The artist's skills, his sense and understanding of form and colour, should be acknowledged and made to serve the public so that the artist would be part of the team of architects, engineers and other specialists. His function would be not only that of an expert for visual elements, but also that of a fermenting agent, of a supplier of ideas, of an impartial, free sparring partner. His methods mean that the artist usually has quite a different relationship and association with the materials, and the expressive potentials of form and colour, than the architect. His approach to problems is different from the architect's as well, as he is unencumbered by administration and organisation, or by the need for precise draughtsmanship (compass and T-square).

In order for the artist to be able to contribute his new perspectives on the design of the built environment, he needs a positive working atmosphere. The brief should be generous; those involved should be willing to benefit from their cooperation. It would be useful to invite an artist's design for a large, contiguous space; he would deal with floor coverings, planting, stairs, seating, soil movement, lighting, the layout of roads and footpaths, the design of public areas, etc. His activities would fall into the category of exterior design and landscaping; it would be that part of the budget which would provide the funds for such work.

The architectural freedom enjoyed by most artists can be a source of inspiration; it can lead to new, original solutions. But it can also create communication problems as it may disrupt the tacit understanding among a team of construction specialists. In such a team, the artist is the unknown factor. One would have to listen to his ideas, suggestions and criticism, and would have to try to benefit from them. What may be expected from most graphic or other designers, i.e. that they should more or less conform with the system, cannot necessarily be expected from a sculptor or a painter.

The construction team willing to welcome an artist in their midst would have to be prepared to grant him their fullest confidence; they would have to accept him as an equal partner. The work schedule would have to allow for stressful situations, for all manner of complications, for more time, The architect would have to be able to accept the fact that the artist would interfere in his work, demanding alterations. Likewise, the artist would have to be willing to trust the construction team, to accept them as equal partners, and to embrace stressful situations, an intense workload and all kinds of complications. Moreover, he would have to be able to accept that some of his ideas might not be realised for structural, functional, financial reasons, and that work on the project and, later, on site, would not be geared to his work rhythm alone.

Despite a maximum of mutual trust, the construction team and the artist will have different perspectives and points of view. Experience has shown that such projects may benefit from the services of an artistic consultant who knows the physical and psychological issues involved from both perspectives. His experience enables him to suggest to the architect various modes of presenting the brief and of selecting the artist. The consultant organises the cooperation of the various parties involved, and assures a continuously positive work atmosphere.

Plenty of time must be allowed at the planning stage. As for the budget, exterior design ideas should already be sketched out so that, later on, not too much funding earmarked for artistic design will have to be siphoned off for actual landscaping work. The early identification of sites for heavy objects may help avoid the late addition of extra foundations and alterations, which can save considerable sums.

Finally, I would like to mention the two examples of "art in the public realm" that have been or are being realised in Biel, which form an important part of the 6th Swiss Sculpture Exhibition.
Maurice Ziegler

© Translation from German, July 2008: Margret Powell-Joss

  • Eber, Probst Jacob, expo 1975
  • Fläche – Raum – Ecke – Fläche (5 Platten), Stäuble Jürg, expo 1975
    Fläche – Raum – Ecke – Fläche (5 Platten)
  • Der Menschenbaum, Fischer Franz, expo 1975
    Der Menschenbaum
  • Sculpture, Ischi Pierre, expo 1975
  • Danielle, Schwarz Heinz, expo 1975
  • bild2, Camesi Gianfredo, expo 1975
  • Etagère, Spoerri Daniel, expo 1975
  • 1974, Kretz Walter, expo 1975
  • Glasskulptur 75/6, Mauboulès Jean, expo 1975
    Glasskulptur 75/6
  • « Dimensionn unique » (Transmutation forme de terre) Unité II, Camesi Gianfredo, expo 1975
    « Dimensionn unique » (Transmutation forme de terre) Unité II
  • Karyathide, Brütsch Friedrich, expo 1975
  • Segelflächen-Skulptur Nr. 3, Pfenninger Kaspar, expo 1975
    Segelflächen-Skulptur Nr. 3
  • Spiralen-Frau, Benazzi Raffael, expo 1975
  • Mémorial pour une Indienne d’Amazonie, Gisiger Hansjörg, expo 1975
    Mémorial pour une Indienne d’Amazonie
  • „Bitte kommen Sie doch …“, Brand Heinz, expo 1975
    „Bitte kommen Sie doch …“
  • Grosser Boss, Luginbühl Bernhard, expo 1975
    Grosser Boss
  • Lieudit II, Grossert Michaël, expo 1975
    Lieudit II
  • Figur V, Wimpheimer Willy, expo 1975
    Figur V
  • E.5.G., Duarte Angel, expo 1975
  • Tinguely, Hofkunst Alfred, expo 1975
  • Einhorn, Müller Erich, expo 1975
  • Torse, Schwarz Heinz, expo 1975
  • Es ist nie zu spät für e Gartezwärg, Kunz Peter, expo 1975
    Es ist nie zu spät für e Gartezwärg
  • Refuge, Müller Robert, expo 1975
  • 1975, Brand Heinz, expo 1975
  • Colonne BTG, Candolfi Serge, expo 1975
    Colonne BTG
  • Plastik auf rundem Sockel, Suter Paul, expo 1975
    Plastik auf rundem Sockel
  • En Cuentro Volcado, Torres Manuel, expo 1975
    En Cuentro Volcado
  • Eisenplastik 5, Odermatt Josef Maria, expo 1975
    Eisenplastik 5
  • bild1, Camesi Gianfredo, expo 1975
  • Barke, Egloff Anton, expo 1975
  • Toro, Rossi Remo, expo 1975
  • Figure XIIa, Presset Henri, expo 1975
    Figure XIIa
  • Metabolicium, Seibt Dieter, expo 1975
  • Die Plattform Noah’s, Gerber Hans, expo 1975
    Die Plattform Noah’s
  • Isolquart, Granwehr Florin, expo 1975
  • „Monsieur X“, Berthoud Francis, expo 1975
    „Monsieur X“
  • Projekt Spielplastik M 1:10, Megert Christian, expo 1975
    Projekt Spielplastik M 1:10
  • Karyatide II, Stocker Ludwig, expo 1975
    Karyatide II
  • Croce, Rossi Remo, expo 1975
  • In sich verhalten, Demut Trudi, expo 1975
    In sich verhalten
  • Urbanocoleopter, Moser Wilfried, expo 1975
  • Aldebaran, Ramseyer André, expo 1975
  • bild2, Kathariner Alois, expo 1975
  • Baumstrunk, Huser Theodor, expo 1975
  • Gartenobjekt, Roth Dieter, expo 1975
  • Rythme, Emile Angéloz, expo 1975
  • « Wo sich die Winde zum Spiele finden… », Hanselmann-Erne Adelheid, expo 1975
    « Wo sich die Winde zum Spiele finden… »
  • Begehbare Raumplastik, Pedretti Gian, expo 1975
    Begehbare Raumplastik
  • Metallplastik, Mattioli Silvio, expo 1975
  • Wind – Pendelrad, Witschi Werner, expo 1975
    Wind – Pendelrad
  • Sitzende, Steiger-Crawford Flora, expo 1975
  • Cheops-Pyramide, Signer Roman, expo 1975
  • 1974, Kretz Walter, expo 1975
  • Findling III, Pösinger Franz, expo 1975
    Findling III
  • 1975, Brand Heinz, expo 1975
  • Eisenplastik I, Wiggli Oskar, expo 1975
    Eisenplastik I
  • Löwenturm, Roth Dieter, expo 1975
  • bild1, Nussbaumer Lorenz, expo 1975
  • Drei Figuren, Storrer Peter, expo 1975
    Drei Figuren
  • Forme confiante, Ponçet Antoine, expo 1975
    Forme confiante
  • Piano rhythmique, Linck Walter, expo 1975
    Piano rhythmique
  • Säulenweib, Meister Peter, expo 1975
  • Torso der Aphrodite, Hubacher Hermann, expo 1975
    Torso der Aphrodite
  • Figure Xa, Presset Henri, expo 1975
    Figure Xa
  • bild1, Kathariner Alois, expo 1975
  • Fragrant piece (men, Ducimetière Gérald, expo 1975
    Fragrant piece (men
  • Saul und David, Zschokke Alex, expo 1975
    Saul und David
  • En Cuentro Horizontal, Torres Manuel, expo 1975
    En Cuentro Horizontal
  • Werk Nr. 1503, Benazzi Raffael, expo 1975
    Werk Nr. 1503
  • „High-Time“ Kapelle, Siegenthaler Albert, expo 1975
    „High-Time“ Kapelle
  • Lichtplastik, Metzler Kurt Laurenz, expo 1975
  • Torse d’adolescente, Schwarz Heinz, expo 1975
    Torse d’adolescente
  • MAL 3-teilig, Fischli Hans, expo 1975
    MAL 3-teilig
  • bild3, Kathariner Alois, expo 1975
  • Durchbrochene Gestaltung, Fahrni Samuel, expo 1975
    Durchbrochene Gestaltung
  • Rückhalt (Relief), Schaub Mischa, expo 1975
    Rückhalt (Relief)
  • Elément, Emile Angéloz, expo 1975
  • Le Dix, Hächler Peter, expo 1975
    Le Dix
  • Athéna, Berthoud Francis, expo 1975
  • „In Tuchfühlung treten…“, Buchwalder Ernst, expo 1975
    „In Tuchfühlung treten…“
  • Chaos I, Tinguely Jean, expo 1975
    Chaos I
  • Element 100, Luginbühl Bernhard, expo 1975
    Element 100
  • Bronze-Beton-Scheibe III, Rehmann Erwin, expo 1975
    Bronze-Beton-Scheibe III
  • Redner, Fischer Franz, expo 1975
  • Mère et enfant, Gisiger Hansjörg, expo 1975
    Mère et enfant
  • Findling II, Pösinger Franz, expo 1975
    Findling II
  • Schyterbeige, Eggenschwiler Franz, expo 1975
  • 3 Elemente (Reliefs), Imfeld Karl, expo 1975
    3 Elemente (Reliefs)
  • Windharfe, Küng René, expo 1975
  • Drahtplastik, Bodmer Walter, expo 1975
  • Figur I, Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1975
    Figur I
  • bild2, Vetter Konrad, expo 1975
  • Cuscino con Agio, Paolucci Flavio, expo 1975
    Cuscino con Agio
  • Lozziwurm, Pestalozzi Ivan, expo 1975
  • Objekt I, Villiger Hannah, expo 1975
    Objekt I
  • Figur II, Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1975
    Figur II
  • Grosser Klappwürfel, Vetter Konrad, expo 1975
    Grosser Klappwürfel
  • Hast noch der Berge ja…., Gerber Hans, expo 1975
    Hast noch der Berge ja….
  • Grosse Stehende, Steiger-Crawford Flora, expo 1975
    Grosse Stehende
  • Gruppe mit zwei Figuren, Aeppli Eva, expo 1975
    Gruppe mit zwei Figuren
  • Kreuzfrau, Eggenschwiler Franz, expo 1975
  • Findlingskopf, Kunz Peter, expo 1975
  • Tubs C, Huber Hans Rudolf, expo 1975
    Tubs C
  • Kopfgruppe, Kunz Peter, expo 1975
  • Figur IV, Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1975
    Figur IV
  • Stele (4-teilig), Grunder Mariann, expo 1975
    Stele (4-teilig)
  • Die Verschwörung, Hotz Roland, expo 1975
    Die Verschwörung
  • 2-er Gruppe, Grunder Mariann, expo 1975
    2-er Gruppe
  • Objet Soleure, Müller Robert, expo 1975
    Objet Soleure
  • Don Quichotte, Richier Germaine, expo 1975
    Don Quichotte
  • Knochenkiste, Iseli Rolf, expo 1975
  • Hermes-Brunnen, Oppenheim Meret, expo 1975
  • Holzsäule farbig, Kaufmann Walter, expo 1975
    Holzsäule farbig
  • Ago con Pelliccia, Paolucci Flavio, expo 1975
    Ago con Pelliccia
  • Animus und Anima, D'Altri Arnold, expo 1975
    Animus und Anima
  • Vorprojekt künstlerische Gestaltung Kinderspital Bern, Megert Christian, expo 1975
    Vorprojekt künstlerische Gestaltung Kinderspital Bern
  • Véronique, Schwarz Heinz, expo 1975
  • PH-PH, Berger Ueli, expo 1975
  • Projet Bienne, Huber Hans Rudolf, expo 1975
    Projet Bienne
  • 1975, Brand Heinz, expo 1975
  • „Ist das wieder eine fatale Sommernacht…“, Weber Willy, expo 1975
    „Ist das wieder eine fatale Sommernacht…“
  • Palais, Hefti Bernhard, expo 1975
  • 1974, Kretz Walter, expo 1975
  • Hardsoftly – S 30, Bucher Carl, expo 1975
    Hardsoftly – S 30
  • Klappwürfel, Vetter Konrad, expo 1975
  • Fluidrose, Ponçet Antoine, expo 1975
  • Fanfare, Müller Robert, expo 1975
  • Neugierig, Demut Trudi, expo 1975
  • Modell zu Figur I (Mst 1:6), Aeschbacher Hans, expo 1975
    Modell zu Figur I (Mst 1:6)
  • Buluu, Huser Theodor, expo 1975
  • Selbstbildnis, Keller Gottfried, expo 1975
  • Grosses Rad, Küng René, expo 1975
    Grosses Rad
  • Begehbare Platten, Lüchinger Thomas, expo 1975
    Begehbare Platten
  • Holy Gost, Kohlbrenner Beat, expo 1975
    Holy Gost
  • Nathan, Tschannen Jürg, expo 1975
  • La Spirale, Oppenheim Meret, expo 1975
    La Spirale
  • bild3, Camesi Gianfredo, expo 1975
  • Stilleben – nature morte, Egloff Anton, expo 1975
    Stilleben – nature morte
  • Steinflügel, Sigrist Kurt, expo 1975
  • Zak, Staub Josef, expo 1975
  • Objekt III, Villiger Hannah, expo 1975
    Objekt III
  • Säule mit Kreuz, Balmer Lorenz, expo 1975
    Säule mit Kreuz
  • bild1, Vetter Konrad, expo 1975
  • Enlacé, Torres Manuel, expo 1975
  • Eisenplastik 1, Odermatt Josef Maria, expo 1975
    Eisenplastik 1
  • Rhythmus im Raum, Bill Max, expo 1975
    Rhythmus im Raum
  • Eisenplastik II, Wiggli Oskar, expo 1975
    Eisenplastik II
  • bild2, Nussbaumer Lorenz, expo 1975
  • Katharsis, D'Altri Arnold, expo 1975
  • Sculpture I, Brunner Gottfried, expo 1975
    Sculpture I
  • bild2, Armleder John Michael, expo 1975
  • Maternité, Rehmann Erwin, expo 1975
  • Komposition (Gegensätze), Teucher Otto, expo 1975
    Komposition (Gegensätze)
  • Signaltor, Engler Jakob, expo 1975
  • Pavillonskulptur II, Bill Max, expo 1975
    Pavillonskulptur II
  • Sculpture II, Brunner Gottfried, expo 1975
    Sculpture II
  • Die Frau und die Schlange, Wyss Josef, expo 1975
    Die Frau und die Schlange
  • Findling I, Pösinger Franz, expo 1975
    Findling I
  • Widder-Frau, Benazzi Raffael, expo 1975
  • Marbre rouge de Vérone, Müller Manuel, expo 1975
    Marbre rouge de Vérone
  • Sunrise, Fontana Annemie, expo 1975
  • Wasserorgel, Werro Roland, expo 1975
  • Hakencat, Travaglini Peter, expo 1975
  • Nostalgie (Kuh), Pedretti Giuliano, expo 1975
    Nostalgie (Kuh)
  • Monument der zukünftigen Vergangenheit, Meister Peter, expo 1975
    Monument der zukünftigen Vergangenheit
  • Begehbares Figurenfeld, Hutter Schang, expo 1975
    Begehbares Figurenfeld
  • bild1, Armleder John Michael, expo 1975
  • Kampf, Flückiger Carlo, expo 1975
  • Figur I, Engel Michel, expo 1975
    Figur I
  • La Siciliana, Weiss Max, expo 1975
    La Siciliana
  • Janus-Mütter, D'Altri Arnold, expo 1975
  • Colonne BTS, Candolfi Serge, expo 1975
    Colonne BTS