Public Art Agency Sweden explores and develops the interaction between contemporary art and public spaces. Through site-specific art, temporary interventions, urban development projects as well as discussions and publications, we strive to contribute to the development of both contemporary art and public spaces.
Public art encompasses all forms of contemporary art that is shown in public spaces or addresses the idea of the public. Contemporary art does not only consist of objects, but operates on relational and conceptual levels as well. Similarly, public spaces are not only streets and squares, but to an equal degree, the social and mental spaces that form when we exchange ideas and reflect critically. This web of complex, dynamic situations is Public Art Agency Sweden’s natural arena.
We have a long tradition of collaborating closely with artists to produce new works. At the centre of our organisation, artists and curators freely investigate the relationship of art to public space. Their work generates knowledge and methods that can in turn be applied in different social contexts such as urban development projects, where the artist’s task is often to contribute specific social or creative skills rather than to create a singular artwork.
A democratic ambition is at the foundation of Public Art Agency Sweden’s mission, a belief that art has an important role to play in society and should be accessible to everyone. To be able to show contemporary art in places where people work, gather and go about their daily lives is both a fantastic opportunity and a profound privilege. Our work with government agencies and institutions also brings us into such diverse environments as youth detention centres, prisons, schools and embassies.
Public Art Agency Sweden was founded in 1937 as a government agency within the Ministry of Culture. Amongst the projects we have produced during our soon 80 years of existence are important artistic comments on the development of Swedish society. The organisation was founded at a time when the Swedish welfare state was in a phase of rapid change and growth. Today, we are in another phase of intense change and there is a great need to find new ways to formulate the idea of the public.
Our mission has necessarily evolved over time – in pace with societal changes and the significant changes that have taken place in contemporary art. In 2012 we began moving from working with permanent artworks and a large collection in government buildings to also exploring free formats, urban development projects and not least of all, discussions and research that is focused on new forms of public art practices.
Public Art Agency Sweden produces permanent artworks for new buildings that will be used for governmental purposes. We work with everything from sculpture and the moving image to sound-based works and entire facades. We engage established international artists as well as emerging artists who have never previously worked with art in public spaces.
For several decades now, artists have looked beyond traditional exhibition spaces to realise their art projects. Contemporary art has crossed into new areas that artists find interesting, from film and design to politics and journalism, to name just a few. There are many artists today who naturally explore different kinds of public spaces and questions about the public in their practice. In temporary projects Public Art Agency Sweden explores new practices together with artists.
Between 2010 and 2013 Public Art Agency Sweden worked together with the Swedish National Heritage Board, Boverket – the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, and The Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design on the government project Samverkan om gestaltning av offentliga miljöer (“Collaboration on the Design of Public Spaces”). The project examined how the design of public environments can be strengthened through collaborations between professional groups and citizens in the planning and building stages. The project proved that different forms of artistic skills can contribute unique perspectives and bring new solutions to the urban development process. Public Art Agency Sweden is entering a new phase in 2014 and urban development is being incorporated as an integral part of our organisation, which will expand the way we work in the future.
Public Art Agency Sweden creates art collections for government offices and buildings throughout Sweden and aboard. The collections have great artistic breadth and include both contemporary art and older works, mainly by Swedish artists. In environments such as national insurance offices, police stations, job centres, the UN headquarters in New York and Sweden’s embassies around the world, many people are able to experience the work of different artists and a diversity of artistic expressions in their daily lives.
Maintenance and administration of art
Since 2004, Public Art Agency Sweden has been responsible for overseeing both government agencies and private property owners in the care of government-owned art and permanent, building-related art.
The government owns approximately 100,000 public artworks located in more than 200 government offices and buildings throughout Sweden and some 100 embassies and offices abroad – a collection of high artistic, cultural and economic value. Public Art Agency Sweden supervises and supports government agencies and institutions in protecting and maintaining the government-owned art in their buildings in a professional way that preserves it for the future. We also provide guidance to about 100 private property owners in the care and management of the building-related art they have commissioned from Public Art Agency Sweden.