Balsall Heath Biennale

Public Art Shares

Imagine the improvement to your child’s prospects if they’ve had the opportunity to touch a Franz West everyday.

Public Art Shares are a new, and currently fictitious proposition for the acquisition of public art. They take the system of the art market (a place, generally speaking, where rich people buy shiny beautiful things) and give the everyday person a point of access into this investment structure.

Public Art Shares responded to the context of the Balsall Heath Neighbourhood Plan. Should a neighbourhood plan contain provision for public art? Should public money be spent on art in areas such as Balsall Heath? Might the general public pool their resources to purchase a piece of public art for the collective good of their neighbourhood? How would decisions about what to buy be made?

Of course, there are many flaws to the concept: while the egalitarian concept of a community pooling its financial resources in order to purchase a piece of public art for the benefit of the greater good hints at a utopian dimension to the project, it ultimately relies upon a capitalist mechanism to function; the work would need to be sold at some point in the future for any profit to be made by shareholders (and potentially re-invested in new work). Despite the difficult logistics and ideological contradictions raised, the idea still has the potential to open up interesting new ways for public art to generate long term funds and escape the presumption that public art has to be permanent.