Public Art Fund

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Public Art Fund is an independent, non-profit arts organization founded in 1977 by Doris C. Freedman. The organization presents contemporary art in New York City's public spaces through a series of highly visible artists' projects, new commissions, installations, and exhibitions that are emblematic of the organization's mission and innovative history. Nicholas Baume joined PAF as Director & Chief Curator in 2009, and Susan K. Freedman has served as the President since 1986.


Public Art Fund was founded in 1977 by Doris C. Freedman (1928-1981), the first Director of New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs, the President of the Municipal Art Society, and a tireless supporter of New York City's Percent for Art legislation.[1] Public Art Fund was born from the merger of two preexisting organizations, CityWalls (founded in 1966) and the Public Arts Council (founded in 1971). Since its inception, Public Art Fund has presented more than 450 artists' exhibitions and projects at sites throughout New York City's five boroughs as varied as streets, plazas, parks, buses, billboards, and even major landmarks including Times Square, Rockefeller Center, the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Columbus Circle, and Lincoln Center.

Highlighted Public Projects in New York City[edit]

Public Art Fund has collaborated with many New York City institutions, including the Whitney Museum of American Art for the Whitney Biennial Outdoors in Central Park (2002[2], 2004)[3], and the Museum of Modern Art for Francis AlÿsThe Modern Procession (2002).[4]

Early exhibition highlights include Agnes DenesWheatfields for Manhattan (1982), David HammonsHigher Goals (1986), and Messages to the Public (1982-1990), a series of projects created for Times Square’s Spectacolor board that featured work by artists including Jenny Holzer, Keith Haring, Barbara Kruger, Vito Acconci, Lynne Tillman, Alfredo Jaar, Richard Prince, and the Guerilla Girls.

In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, the organization commissioned socially conscious pieces such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres“Untitled” billboard (1989), Gran Fury’s “Women don’t get AIDS…they just die from it” poster (1991), Guerilla Girls’ billboard project for Public Art Fund’s PSA: Public Service Art exhibition series (1991), and Barbara Kruger’s Bus (1997).

In 1997, Public Art Fund organized Ilya Kabakov's Monument to the Lost Glove, a giant glove made of red plastic resin, which was bolted to the traffic triangle where Fifth Avenue and Broadway cross at 23rd Street, and worked with him again in 2000 with The Palace of Projects, which was shown at the 69th Regiment Armory.

Other New York City projects included Nancy Rubins' Big Pleasure Point at Lincoln Center; Corner Plot by Sarah Sze at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza; Alexander Calder in New York at the City Hall Park; and Material World at the MetroTech Commons in Downtown Brooklyn, which featured new commissions by Rachel Foullon, Corin Hewitt, Matthew Day Jackson, Peter Kreider, and Mamiko Otsubo.

Public Art Fund moved into a new territory when it announced it would present 2001 Turner Prize winner Martin Creed's performance art piece, Variety Show, on March 30, 2007 at the Abrons Arts Center on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Recent exhibition highlights include Olafur Eliasson's The New York City Waterfalls (2008), which created man-made waterfalls at four sites on New York City’s waterfront; Rob Pruitt's The Andy Monument, a tribute to Andy Warhol at Union Square (2011),[5] Tatzu Nishi's Discovering Columbus (2012), which reimagined the 13-foot-tall statue of Columbus standing in a fully furnished, modern living room;[6] and Jeppe Hein's Please Touch the Art (2015) at Brooklyn Bridge Park.[7]

In 2017, Public Art Fund is celebrating its 40th anniversary with the citywide group exhibition Commercial Break, Liz Glynn's Open House at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Anish Kapoor's Descension at Brooklyn Bridge Park, and Ai Weiwei's Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.[8]


The book Plop: Recent Projects of the Public Art Fund, written by Public Art Fund's President Susan K. Freedman, celebrates the success of the organization in financing many publicly placed works of art over the last few decades, many of which are now beloved, though some may have at first 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Percent for Art - NYC Department of Cultural Affairs". Retrieved 2017-04-17. 
  2. ^ "Whitney Biennial in Central Park Organized by the Public Art Fund". Whitney. 
  3. ^ "Whitney Biennials". Public Art Fund. 
  4. ^ "Projects 76: Francis Alÿs | MoMA". Museum of Modern Art. 
  5. ^ "Rob Pruitt unveils his Monument to Andy Warhol at Union Square West - artnet Magazine". Retrieved 2017-04-17. 
  6. ^ Lasky, Julie (2012-09-19). "A Living Room Suspended Over Columbus Circle". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-17. 
  7. ^ Pogrebin, Robin (2015-03-26). "Brooklyn Bridge Park to Display Danish Artist". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-17. 
  8. ^ Barone, Joshua (2017-03-26). "Ai Weiwei's Latest Artwork: Building Fences Throughout New York City". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-17. 

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