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Plop art (or Plonk art) is a pejorative slang term for public art (usually large, abstract, modernist or contemporary sculpture) made for government or corporate plazas, spaces in front of office buildings, skyscraper atriums, parks, and other public venues. The term connotes that the work is unattractive or inappropriate to its surroundings—that is, it has been thoughtlessly "plopped" where it lies. Plop art is a play on the term pop art. According to artnet.com, plop art was coined by architect James Wines in 1969. The derisive term was eagerly taken up both by progressives (like Wines) and by conservatives. Progressives were critical of the failure of much public art to take an environmentally-oriented approach to the relationship between public art and architecture. Conservatives liked the term because it suggested something ugly, formless, and meaningless, produced without any real skill or care. The very word "plop" suggested something falling wetly and heavily in the manner of excrement—extruded, as it were, from the fundament of the art world, and often at public expense.
"Right now architecture and sculpture are calling to each other, and calling for response that's intelligent, not for more ghastly lumps of sculpture ... which have no sense of scale and are just plonked down in public places." — Anthony Caro (1924–2013), English sculptor.
More recently[when?], defenders of public art funding have tried to reclaim the term. The book Plop: Recent Projects of the Public Art Fund, celebrates the success of the Public Art Fund in financing many publicly placed works of art over the last few decades, many of which are now beloved, though they may at first have been derided as "ploppings". Several currents or movements in contemporary art, such as environmental sculpture, site-specific art, and land art, counterpose themselves philosophically to "plop art," as well as to traditional public monumental sculpture.
- From an interview with Tim Marlowe for Tate: The Art Magazine, 1994.
- Susan K Freedman. Plop : recent projects of the Public Art Fund (London ; New York : Merrell Publishers in association with Public Art Fund, New York, 2004) ISBN 1-85894-248-9; ISBN 1-85894-247-0