From Banksy’s green leaves to Miami’s pink islands, public art is having a party – and everyone’s invited!

<span>Literally embracing nature … The Surrounding Islands in Miami by Jeanne-Claude and Christo.</span>Photo: Pete Wright/AP</span>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/” data- src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/”/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Taking nature literally … The Surrounding Islands in Miami by Jeanne-Claude and Christo.Photo: Pete Wright/AP

Last week, I took my five year old nephew to see the new Banksy in London. As we walked, I told him that it was a new, magical tree that had suddenly appeared overnight, put up by a masked man, and that it was our duty to solve the mystery. He came up with all kinds of theories.

When we got there, there were crowds of people coming by on bikes and on foot, or slowing down as they passed in their cars – people of all ages and backgrounds. Like us, they were marveling at the new green splattered wall which, from some angles, looks like a tree in full bloom. People were talking, asking each other their thoughts, noting the stenciled outline of someone holding a hose next to the tree, or imagining how the artist was able to build it so secretly .

This work of art will change with the seasons: hidden in summer as if hiding, only to reveal itself again in winter

The strength of the painting is its ability to emphasize the cherry tree he has recently embraced in front of him. By being painted in March, it gives us close attention to the minuscule sprouts on the branches of the cherry trees (currently leafless) which will soon be covered in pink wildflowers. I love how this work of art will change with the seasons: hidden in the summer as if it is hidden, not to reveal itself again in the winter.

Public art can have a social and political agenda. It gives us an opportunity to think about who and what lives around him, and how much that landscape might have changed. Between 1999 and 2001, New York-based artist Ellen Harvey took to the streets to paint 40 tiny, carefully rendered landscapes reminiscent of the old European masters. Painted on graffiti sites, subway signs or traffic control boxes, each work was made in an oval shape that reflected Claude glass, those dark convex mirrors popular with tourists in the 18th century, allowing them to reflect and frame beautiful scenes.

Called The New York Beautification Project, this was intended to be “a love letter to everyone who wants to make a city more beautiful”, as Harvey told me. But he also spoke poignantly about what the city once was. If you put a glass of Claude up there today, what would you get? Lots of skyscrapers and developments, not many trees to be seen. Like Banksy, Harvey informs us of the rarity and sanctity of green spaces in urban environments – and the urgent need to protect them.

Bringing public art on an almost unscalable scale, Jeanne-Claude and her husband Christo have dedicated their lives to embracing nature literally, covering the entire coasts of the archipelago in bright pink fabric, wrapping trees in fields in Switzerland and Australia, and installing a huge orange curtain. across a valley and over a highway in Colorado. It was an extraordinary way of prioritizing the environment, a way of funding it, or even teasing it, as if it were about to send it to a higher place.

Public art requires us to be present, to bring it to life with our imagination, to think about how it was built, what its location looked like before, and how the art connects to what already exists – all tools that we can use it for dreams. up to a better life.

By being physically present on our streets, in our parks, in our valleys and on our coasts, public art can spark vital conversation

In 1996, Yoko Ono applied these tools to her Wish Tree series, which has since been exhibited around the globe, from Dublin to San Francisco. They are currently appearing outside Music of the Mind, their show at Tate Modern in London. Providing participants with pens, paper, trees and string, Ono offered the following instruction: “Make a wish. Write it down on a piece of paper. Fold it and tie it around a branch of a Wishing Tree. Ask your friends to do the same. Keep wishing them. Until the branches are covered with wishes.” Not only does it enable us to think more positively but, like Banksy and Harvey, Ono asks us what qualifies as art, what it can or should her, where she can be shown and to whom it is.

This is a great strength of public art: it is a celebration of public viewing. Everyone is able to participate/contribute on an equal basis, engaging in the work that best suits them, regardless of age or level of artistic knowledge – from those driving. down slowly to those who stop and find the time to make a wish. By being physically present in our streets, in our parks, in our valleys and on our coasts, it can stimulate vital conversations about the state of society. But it is often short-lived – none of Harvey’s landscapes exist today. This encourages us to cherish the limited time we have with him.

In a world of increasing smartphone addiction and loneliness, public art can provide a sense of integration, community and fun. It can bring unexpected joy to commuters, show children that their opinions matter – and their participation in society, and that everyone is invited to this magical thing we call art.

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