Public Art: Politics and Process


This course examines the politics and process around modern and contemporary public art and monuments, predominantly sculpture. Topics include: the challenges of public space, patronage, issues of nationalism and cultural identity, memorialisation (e.g., war and Holocaust memorials) and the urban environment. Issues and controversies around international case studies and local practice are studied in relation to works such as Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Anthony Gormley’s Angel of the North, The Fourth Plinth and the Princess of Wales memorial in Hyde Park. Examples of public art are considered in relation to theories of place and space.

The first half of the course focuses on the theory of public art and on international case studies. This first half of the course can be taken as a 15 point course (ARTHIST 719).

The second part of the course focuses on public art in New Zealand. A history of the modern revival of public art is outlined, and particular attention is paid to work in Wellington (often billed as "the city of sculpture") and Auckland.

Topics include major outdoor art events such as headland Sculpture on the Gulf and the biennial Sculpture in the Gardens at the Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens in Manurewa. The abundance of accessible public sculpture parks in the Auckland region is discussed, including Brick Bay Sculpture Park and Connells Bay. Foremost of these is Alan Gibbs’ world renowned The Farm, where a private zoo of exotic animals and a collection of World War II army tanks and machinery complements a vast landscape of outdoor object and land art by major international sculptors such as Maya Lin, Richard Serra and Andy Goldsworthy.

To complete this course students must enrol in ARTHIST 706 A and B, or ARTHIST 706.

 ARTHIST 706A is restricted against ARTHIST 719.


Astudent who successfully completes this course will have the opportunity to:

·       acquire knowledge of art historical styles and apply it

·       understand and carry out visual and contextual analysis


·       acquire skills in report writing, critical thinking, academic literacy , written and oral presentation.



Coursework only

Availability 2022

Not taught in 2022




ARTHIST 706A: 15 points

ARTHIST 706B: 15 points