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Can Government and Art Mix?

July 29, 1990

Regarding Ron Galperin's "Public Art" article (July 15):

When conservative Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) objects to public funding of art that is arguably obscene and clearly blasphemous, all hell breaks loose, even though he has not tried to keep anyone from creating any art with private funds.

But when tried and true Westside liberal Alan Sieroty and the Community Redevelopment Agency actually use government power to censor art by forcing developers to exclude art privately commissioned by them, and put in only "public art" officially approved by the CRA Arts Advisory Committee, that seems to evoke no protest from the otherwise vocal art establishment.

To add insult to injury, first the CRA forces the developers to put in public art into their projects, and then it claims the right to censor the resulting sculpture. How is that for sheer chutzpah ?

All of which only illustrates that the term public art is an oxymoron, and that government has no business in the art business. The decision to prefer one work of art over another is highly personal and idiosyncratic. In contrast, government actions--at least in a democratic society--have to strive for consensus and are thus an illegitimate intrusion into individual Freedom oF artistic expression.

If Sieroty and his Kultur mavens want to decide what art goes where, let them pay the artist and display their art on their own land.


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