Who Owns Public Art? Panel Discussion at Tate Britain

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Rachel Whiteread House 1993. Photo by Sue Omerod.

In light of the recent public outcry over Henry Moore’s public sculpture ‘Old Flo’, Tate Britain invites a panel to discuss ‘Who owns public art?’. The panel includes artist Bob and Roberta Smith, art historian Robert Burstow, social policy expert Simon Parker and leading sociologist Anne Power. The discussion will be chaired by Penelope Curtis, Director, Tate Britain and will take place in the Clore Auditorium at Tate Britain on Tuesday 29 January at18:30.

The proposed sale of Henry Moore’s Draped Seated Woman (affectionately known as ‘Old Flo’) by Tower Hamlets Council provoked public outrage amidst fears about the future of public art in the collections of local councils. But this case raises wider questions of public art ownership that demand consideration. Who owns public art? Do local councils have the right to sell it in the name of public benefit? What is the role of government and its policies in these decisions? What are the difficulties faced by those charged with the preservation of public art?

Bob and Roberta Smith
London-based artist, Bob and Roberta Smith believes that art plays a powerful role in democratic systems, both as a forum for free speech and as a workshop to explore new futures. The artist sign writes their ideas on pieces of old timber they find in skips. His work has been shown extensively internationally.

Simon Parker
Simon Parker is director of NLGN, the country’s leading localist think tank. Simon previously worked in journalism and public policy research, most recently as a fellow at the Institute for Government. He has published widely on local democracy, public services and civil service reform. He writes regularly for publications that include The Guardian and the Municipal Journal.

Robert Burstow
Robert Burstow is Reader in History and Theory of Art at the University of Derby. His principal research interests are in post-war modern and contemporary British art and art criticism, and he has a particular interest in public art. He is currently leading research on the public sculpture of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire for the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association’s National Recording Project and working on a forthcoming book on modern sculpture in post-war Britain.

Anne Power
Anne Power has been involved in European and American housing and urban problems since 1965. She is Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and Head of LSE Housing and Communities, a research group based within the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion. In 1991, she became founding director of the National Communities Resource Centre at Trafford Hall, which provides residential training and pump-priming support for people living and working in low-income communities, and is currently Chair. Her research interests include housing, neighbourhoods, social problems, climate change, cities and international experience.