ISSN: 2042793X
Online ISSN: 20427948
First published in 2011
2 issues per volume
Current Issue:
Volume 2 / Issue 1-3 Free Issue
Volume 1 | Issue 1
Call for Papers

Special Issue: Public Art and Accountability: Whose Art for Whose City?

Martin Zebracki
Wageningen University, Utrecht University, the Netherlands & Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
joni m palmer
University of Colorado at Boulder, USA

Art is a burgeoning phenomenon in the public sphere of Western cities, and emcompases a range of issues from geographical levels of the body to international development. Public art includes an expanded notion of art and public sphere that considers art, politics, art criticism and curatorial practices.
The Journal for Art & the Public Sphere has a critical relationship to traditional and conventional debates about public art and art in the public sector and the public realm. There is a growing body of contemporary art practice and theory that by-passes the constraints of public art, the public sector and the public realm in order to explore how the most ambitious and challenging art of the day intersects with its publics not only via public spaces and public institutions, but through a whole range of techniques and technologies of social engagement.
This special issue invites scholars from across all disciplines, who are engaged with multidisciplinary articulations of social and cultural theory, to critically analyse the socio-spatial contexts, experiences and affects of art in the public sphere.

Art in the public sphere is a geographical conversation piece that is not uncritical in the least. This issue welcomes papers that may engage with one or more of the following critical questions, or related relevant matters. By whom and for whom, and from which rationales, is public art made in time and space? And, more particularly, what does this imply for urban identity, socio-spatial inclusion and exclusion, and sociocultural sustainability?
Deadline for call for papers 1 June 2013
Call for papers to be submitted to

Suggested topics this issue attempts to explore include, but are not restricted to, the following:

· Critical relationships between art, power, society and the further-expanded public sphere (cf. Cartiere and Willis 2008; Knight 2008)
· Socio-spatial legitimisation of public art (cf. Sharp et al. 2005)
· Deconstruction of public-art claims (cf. Zebracki et al. 2010)
· Embodiment and non-representational epistemologies of public art (cf. Hawkins 2012)
· Engaging geographies of public art (cf. Zebracki 2012)
· Exploring public art as time-space/Time-space as public art
· Reflexive and performative methodologies of public-art research (cf. Crouch 2010; Dewsbury 2010)

Conceptual and/or empirical contributions are welcomed.
Cartiere, C. and Willis, S. (eds) (2008) The Practice of Public Art. New York: Routledge.
Crouch, D. (2010) Flirting with space: thinking landscape relationally. Cultural Geographies 17(1): 5–18.
Dewsbury, J.-D. (2010) Performative, non-representational, and affect-based research. In: Delyser, D, Herbert, S., Aitken, S. and Crang, M. (eds) The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Geography. London: SAGE, 321–334.
Hawkins, H. (2012) Geography and art. An expanding field: site, the body and practice. Progress in Human Geography, doi: 10.1177/0309132512442865.
Knight, C. (2008) Public Art. Theory, Practice and Populism. Oxford: Blackwell.
Sharp, J., Pollock, V. and Paddison, R. (2005) Just art for a just city: public art and social inclusion in urban regeneration, Urban Studies 42(5/6): 1001–1023.
Zebracki, M. (2012), Engaging geographies of public art: indwellers, the ‘Butt Plug Gnome’ and their locale. Social & Cultural Geography 13(7): 735–758,.
Zebracki, M., Van Der Vaart, R. and Van Aalst, I. (2010) Deconstructing public artopia: situating public-art claims within practice, Geoforum 41(5): 786–795


For current Call for Papers please click here

For Notes for Contributors please click here. Please note that Notes for Contributors should be read along Intellect Style Guide, which you can download in Publish With Us section of the website.

Art & the Public Sphere provides a new platform of critical debate for academics, artists, curators, art historians and theorists, whose working practices are broadly concerned with contemporary art's relation to the public sphere.

The journal voices a critical relationship towards the traditional and conventional debates about the specific field of public art, as well as towards the broader discussions and art practices in the public sector and the public realm. Whilst ‘public art’ has continually suffered from its mixed role as art and also town planning, in the UK, for example, the perceived success of Anthony Gormley’s ‘Angel of the North’ has since recruited public art for the purposes of ‘place-making’ and the branding of cities.

There exists a growing body of contemporary art practice and theory that bypasses the constraints of public art, public sector and public realm, in order to explore how the most ambitious and challenging art of the day intersects with its publics, not only via public spaces and public institutions, but also through a whole range of techniques and technologies of social engagement. Such engagements link specific questions about public art to broader questions about art’s role within the history of western democracy and art's active participation in opinion formation, free discussion and political action.

At the same time, critical art is re-emerging and is being re-evaluated by the likes of Chantal Mouffe, linking contemporary art to broader questions of counter-hegemonic struggle, dissensus and political transformation. These developments are evident in contemporary buzzwords such as ‘participation’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘collective action’, which are becoming more central and further contested within contemporary art. Parallel to which are developments in art such as relational aesthetics and new genre public art, which are raising these very same issues within art’s own internal logic.

This new constellation is the context for contemporary art’s ‘social turn’ and the ‘art of encounter’. Relational art, for instance, calls forth a public for art that is not made up of viewers: instead it is an art of activity, encounter and conviviality. Critics of this work have argued that it neglects antagonism (Claire Bishop), reduces otherness (Jan Verwoert), commodifies experience (Stewart Martin), and promotes ‘NGO Art’ (BAVO). Simon Sheikh has also developed the critique of the Habermasian version of the public sphere in an account of post-publics. This field has been re-theorized recently by John Roberts in terms of art’s immersion into ‘general social technique’, which explains art’s new found ability to adopt the skills and practices of social work, the service economy, political action and so on.

At the same time as opening art to the techniques and forums of political and social activity, it also links art, perhaps uncomfortably, to broader shifts in culture and society, such as the impact of ‘third way’ politics. Art is more liable, therefore, to be instrumentalized by political leaders when it has already promoted itself as convivial, useful and helpful. The development of cultural policy and culture-led regeneration has seized on art’s new settlement within the public sphere to cheaply implement social policy through art, and indeed art’s relation to the public sphere has taken criticism as a result.

Art in the public sphere is also implicated in the enormous growth of the biennial and the rise of the über-curator as signature-name for events over and above the artists, because these spectacular events are often given themes that tie the exhibition to social issues within the public sphere and are routinely defended in terms of their positive local social impact.

Importantly, therefore, Art & the Public Sphere provides a critical examination of contemporary art’s relation to the public realm, offering an engaged and responsive forum in which to debate the newly emerging series of developments within contemporary thinking, society and international art practice. The journal will develop a broad and complex set of discourses on the ‘public’, ‘publicness’, ‘making public’ and ‘publishing’, in the most conceptually ambitious sense. Questions about the public will be raised across a range of fields and positions by potential readers and contributors, including academics involved in: Fine Art, Art History, Art Theory, Architecture / Town Planning/ Culture-led Regeneration, Cultural Geography, Cultural Studies, Politics, Sociology, and Philosophy (aesthetic, political, social and linguistic). This will ensure that Art and the Public Sphere successfully communicates the interests of the entire community involved in originating, propagating or analysing art practice within the public sphere.

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