Artists, designers, planners, and architects alike must face the challenge of defining public space, as an opportunity to create or improve the sense of community among those who will determine the use, or abandonment of a place.

-Ethan Kane, from Ars Poetica, 2004

Welcome to part three of our ongoing series where we explore the timeline of public art’s history throughout the world! This particular article will be about the forms of public art that were produced between the 18th and 20th centuries. 

Public Art from 1700 to 1900

Arc de Triomphe – Paris, France

During the 18th and 19th centuries, public art in the Western world was largely confined to the commemoration of Bishops, Kings, and other secular heroes (e.g. Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London, or the Arc de Triomphe in Paris), as well as new works of urban architecture. This was partly due to a reduction in patronage by the Catholic Church. 

St. Patrick’s Cathedral – New York City, New York

Throughout America, public architectural masterpieces such as the Capitol Building and Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC; St Patrick’s Cathedral New York (1858-79, designed by James Renwick); and the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour served as examples of this (1886, designed by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi).

Paris Opera House – Paris, France

In Europe, public art was exemplified by a diverse range of structures, including the Neo-Classical National Gallery in London; the spectacular Neo-Gothic Houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom (1839-52, designed by Sir Charles Barry); the Paris Opera House (1860-75, designed by Charles Garnier); the Eiffel Tower (1887-89), designed and engineered by Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) and Stephen Sauvestre; and many others.