World's Ugliest Public Art
You can’t hide from these public art
monstrosities, whether wandering Prague or Denver International Airport.
The high-rises of
Paris’s La Défense district have questionable company: César
Baldaccini’s 40-foot-tall model of his own thumb. Given its pedestrian-flattening size and ugly wrinkles,
there’s much to find, ahem, opposable.
It used to be that if you needed to perk up a street or park, a statue of a
mustachioed general on horseback or a goddess in a toga would do nicely. But
these days, being pretty or handsome just isn’t enough of a goal for public
art: most attempt to make a splash, whether by being gigantic, stridently
eclectic, borderline tasteless, or (ideally) some combination. And if that means
bringing on the ugly, so be it.
To come up with candidates for
the world’s ugliest public art, we sought pieces that shot for the moon and…missed.
Size counted: a weird little mural might not be your cup of tea, but it’s a lot
easier to overlook than a gargantuan sculpture of a starlet captured exposing
her underwear, or an awkwardly proportioned monument that casts a pall on a
The design of public art is sometimes
off-putting because it’s not only unattractive, but also downright perplexing. While
public clocks are a time-honored tradition, consider the steam-belching model with
a hole and a faux metronome on view in New York City’s Union Square. The
clock’s 15 LED digits have been confusing passersby since 1999.
Of course, many of the artists
whose work is featured here are probably in on the joke, and wouldn’t be bothered
by a little ribbing. No one would ever make peeing automatons or an overstuffed
rabbit if he or she weren’t ready to face a little blowback.
And if you find yourself thinking
that a few of these works don’t deserve inclusion on this list, so much the
better. We might have been too hasty. As the Boston art critic Greg Cook puts
it, “Public art—even works we hate—should be given a chance. Years. Sometimes
it takes a while for something to grow on you. Sometimes it takes a while just
to figure something out.”
We’re not sure that that’s going
to make many of these works much more palatable, but hey, you never can tell.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to give the angry lady with dreads, the
sinister monk, and all the rest a very wide berth.