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Why art in cities matters? My views on this

Maija Kovari

I feel very strongly, that in the future of our cities, not only functionality, but an ability to create meaning and a feeling of belonging will separate the cities that thrive from those that fall. I wonder, if art could be one of the solutions to creating cities that unite the increasingly culturally mixed populations, showing us our similarities and shared humanity? If so, how could both the art world and the world of city planning be better adapt for collaboration?

Having worked in both urban planning and design, and as a contemporary artist, I currently work as a director in Public Art Agency Finland, an agency that seeks to develop and broaden the collaboration between these fields. We consult cities and companies, that seek to add art as part of their design, or want to create more general strategies of doing this. I'm interested in the global tendencies towards promoting public art, and the ways in which artists collaborate with the field of urban planning and design in different cities.

Planet by Marc Quinn, against the Singapore skyline in 2015. Image source and more info here.

I see Singapore as a symbolic city, in many ways a vision to the future of our globalized cities. Multicultural, safe, well maintained and technically advanced, the city-state seems to me a vision of where others are headed. In this role, it might also give us clues about possible challenges along this path. This is what I had in mind when organizing a month long trip to study these questions on site.

Practices in public art - today & tomorrow

I'll be spending the month of October in Singapore, writing about my work along the way here. My aim is to understand the similarities and possible differences in the ways in which professionals involved in urban design and landscape architecture collaborate with contemporary artists in their projects in Singapore. I'll compare the results to my experiences of the methods used in Finland - another highly developed country in the other side of the world. Trough this comparison, I hope to be able to sketch a picture showing some possible directions for the use of art in cities in the future.

To understand how this kind of collaboration works in today's Singapore, I'll be meeting with different professionals working in urban planning, design, art, and landscape architecture, as well as representatives in the city's administration, to discuss how they see the field. In the interviews I hope to give a voice to the professionals, asking how they see the current practices in combining art with urban spaces, as well as their views on the future of art as part of our growing, global cities. Where they see this kind of collaboration headed, in the best possible future scenario, and what might be possible obstacles along the way?

Do You Live in Singapore?

In addition to interviews with professionals, I hope to gather views from ordinary citizens. How Singaporeans see their city and its public space? Today, art is a visible part of the urban space - do you see its role developing in the future, and if so, how? An anonymous survey, open to all locals will be conducted on this site during October - more info will follow!

Exhibition at Clarke Quay

In addition to these discussions, updated live on this site, my intention is to study the public art of the city on site, and conduct visual presentations for an exhibition, showing the ways in which art is present both in the city spaces and in the processes that create them. Possibly, there will be a couple of my own designs for public artworks placed in Singapore as well. The exhibition will be held on the final weekend of October, at the Instinc Gallery, above the Clarke Quay MRT Station. Instinc Artist Residency Program is my host for this study. More info of the space can be found here.

I hope you'll join me on my journey trough the public art scene of Singapore and the future of cities.


Maija Kovari

Architect, Artist - MSc (Arch), B.F.A.,  //  Public Art Agency Finland - Director - 

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