Have you ever wondered how the concept of public art came to be? It’s existed for longer than you might think— since Ancient Greece and Rome, in fact (and possibly even further back).
The majority of public art that has survived since the ages of Antiquity consists of different types of stonework— including (but not limited to) honorary monuments, statues, and other types of religious or architectural sculptures.
Today, public art includes a wide range of various media: sculptures, architecture, decorative arts, ceramics, mosaics, painting, stained glass, tapestry, and so many others.
Consider this part 1 of the series in which we outline the history of the evolution of public art throughout the world, from ancient times to the present day.
The Origins of Public Art
Ancient Greek cities were early advocates of the enlightening qualities of social and religious art (mainly through the medium of sculpture), in which they’re allowed to be surveyed and appreciated by all members of the community. Later, Roman authorities constructed mass-produced statues of the Roman Emperor throughout the entire empire in order to illustrate Rome’s majesty.
This idea of communal art for the purpose of aesthetics or propaganda was heavily implemented by both Pagan and Christian communities alike. During the 5th century, the Roman church, which was influenced by the Eastern Church, produced the beautiful Ravenna mosaics.
Rome later celebrated the end of the Dark Ages with the creation of great cathedrals of medieval, romanesque, and gothic styles similar to that of France (known for Rheims, Chartres, Amiens, and Notre Dame de Paris).
These famous, monumental buildings were considered to be public works of art; which were adorned with beautifully detailed religious art that included mosaic art, statues, altarpieces, and stained glass. These were specifically designed to inspire the community at large with their grandeur and religious spectacle.