Smash or Hug the Jug?

The recent announcement by Margaret Ritchie of the latest piece of commissioned public art for Belfast city centre raised a few hackles amongst the arts scene here. A group “No more public art in Belfast” was set up on facebook and through that group, a public meeting was held today at Place the Architectural and Built Environment Centre for Northern Ireland, to discuss this proposed artwork.
Well attended with artist’s, practitioners, architects and the interested, the discussion moved swiftly away from the quality of the proposed art work (a comment in itself) to how it got commissioned and the process behind that.
What was the criteria that enabled the artist to receive £100,000 to produce this?
Where is the integrated arts policy City Hall is working on? (Apparently it’s awaiting ratification and won’t be released for consultation (never mind implementation) till near the end of the year).
When i asked one of the judges from the selection committee, why we couldn’t have a fountain bearing in mind the proposed placement, i was told that a fountain had actually been part of the original remit but that no one had submitted a proposal with one.
Which begs the question ….Why have a remit then accept anything less?

Questions were also asked as to where the commission was advertised as no one present had seen it (and the arts being the arts when £100k pops up on the radar interest is guaranteed).
I was also told (via another member of the ‘selection committee’) that this jug was the” best of a bad bunch”, and yet they have still gone ahead and commissioned it. Why did they not re advertise (locally)? Are they in such a hurry to spend the money that the consideration of quality went out the window?

Given that the Arts Council Northern Ireland were represented on the panel, surely they would have issues around this proposal and it probably could be argued that the decision to go ahead with this particular art piece undermines their position as arbiters of what is good, lasting and  relevant public art.

After the commissioning of ‘The Mangled Metal Mess’ at Cornmarket which has divided opinion (the empty plinth arguably was a far  better piece of public art as it was appropriated by all and sundry), questions remain as to the commissioning of public art in Belfast.

The costs associated with commissions of this kind and the seemingly incomprehensible process that leads to commissioning means that a coherent strategy should be put in place and until such time that it is in place an embargo should be put in place to ensure no more money is spent on second rate public art.

The planning application was in the papers on Friday past so you have less than two weeks to object