Is public art worth the money?

It’s called African Renaissance, it towers over the Senegalese capital of Dakar, taller than the Statue of Liberty.

When it’s officially dedicated at a ceremony in the next few weeks, the country’s President wants it to symbolise the new aspirations of the younger generation.


But the statue has cost the country 27 million dollars. And President Abdoulaye Wade is claiming 35% of the future tourism revenue from the monument for himself, as the designer.

There’s a row in Senegal over whether it’s worth the money – especially because the nation hasn’t got a lot to spare.

Other countries have had their rows about plans for grand public art recently – like the Mayor of London’s so-called Piffle Tower or  statues in Uttar Pradesh in India being built by Chief Minister Mayawati.

But what would Paris be without its Tower or New York without its Statue? Some controversial recent artworks have ended up being popular – just look at the UK’s Angel Of The North (pictured left).

Why the reluctance now to build big works of art? Maybe you think building more of them  would be inspiring and enriching? Or is it wrong to spend money on monuments, when there are more pressing issues in the world?

13 Responses to “Is public art worth the money?”

  1. 1 scmehta
    November 18, 2009 at 14:04

    Think Big and Build Big, but don’t act small, bad and mean.
    Any great piece of art or a landmark, that signifies a country’s inspirational identity, is always priceless.

  2. 2 gary
    November 18, 2009 at 14:06

    Twenty-seven million dollars? What is that? Just about the cost of one new or maybe two used attack helicopters? It may be big, bold, beautiful, evocative, ugly, silly, boring, or utterly useless; but at least public art doesn’t kill people. Of course, it doesn’t feed them either. And, any suggestions of educational value are always a bit of stretch.

  3. 3 patti in cape coral
    November 18, 2009 at 14:11

    I don’t know. Money could probably be used for more important things, but a lot of landmarks and beautiful art would not exist if we thought that way. It doesn’t seem like the right time to be putting money in public art, though.

  4. 4 Gary Paudler
    November 18, 2009 at 14:55

    Don’t forget the 20% I get, in perpetuity, maybe longer, for being the model for the center figure. Maybe it’s a monument to open, transparent graft but as a fine art fabricator I can say that $27 million (if that’s really the total) is not too much for an object that size. An Andy Warhol print just sold at auction for more than $43 million; I’d say Senegal is getting a pretty good deal, though there isn’t a feverish secondary market for African Heroic monuments at least they didn’t blow the money on Damian Hirst taxidermy. I think that public art can be worthwhile, whether that’s the best way to spend limited funds now is another question. Wikipedia says that Senagal has one of the best-developed tourist industries in Africa, so maybe, artistic value aside, the monument isn’t such a kooky idea.

  5. 5 Ronald Almeida
    November 18, 2009 at 15:44

    Just because we did idiotic things in the past, do we have to keep doing them? What for? Who do we have to prove anythying to? Just because countries were dumb enough to make a show for the rest of the world. Why not use the money to do something better and useful?

  6. 6 Ken
    November 18, 2009 at 16:24

    Wow! I hadn’t seen this statue yet! It’s gorgeous.

    As an artist I love to see more art in the world. I know what peace and joy art brings and wish more people could share it.

  7. 7 Alan in Arizona
    November 18, 2009 at 17:12

    As an artist I think it is a beautiful work. But spending 27 million on any piece of art is absolutely stupid. It’s a definite sign of mental instability and it’s money hungry ” IDEA” man should be removed from office for incompetence. I’d even consider charges of wasting public funds. Something like that should have been voted on by the countries citizens. President Abdoulaye Wade is about as close to being an artist as Damian Hirst. Coming up with the idea makes you an Idea Man ( or Woman), creating the work with your own hands and skills make you an artist.
    I think spending that kind of money on the Senegal citizens and education would make it a stronger country in this Modern World.

  8. 8 T
    November 18, 2009 at 18:45

    It depends on what it is and where the money is coming from. Unfortunately, anything “publically funded” in the States is almost always tied to “socialism.” Very strange…

  9. 9 Tom K in Mpls
    November 18, 2009 at 19:06

    If someone wants something ( art? ) bad enough, they will get the money to do it. Just don’t take the money from me.

  10. November 18, 2009 at 20:08

    Absolutely yes.The world would be a poorer place without them.My favourite:-Boadicea,on Westminster Bridge.

  11. 11 Josiah Soap
    November 18, 2009 at 21:47

    Thats absolutely disgusting, 27 million dollars, when most of the country is poor and starving. It could have been used for education, medical aid or just to feed some hungry people.
    And of course they will stretch out their hands to the west asking for more money, while blaming their ill’s on colonization.
    If they have this much money to waste then they obviously don’t need any aid from western countries.

  12. November 19, 2009 at 02:24

    There should be a balance. Creating art in public places is okay. It brings tourists
    & some money with it. But spending a fortune on it in a developing country is not acceptable. Mayawati in UP, India, erected her statues for self glorification – not for the love of art. It is disgusting to see her spending so much money on her statues when several poor people are starving in her own state.
    Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa

  13. 13 Dave
    January 1, 2010 at 13:27

    Spending 27 million of the countries money on this is not only stupid, but it is a slap in the face to the people of Senegal.

    Anyone thinking that this is money well spent should take a walk around not only Dakar but other areas of Senegal and then reassess their opinion.
    This money could have been used in 27 million better ways rather than spending it on a statue that will supposedly provide hope and inspiration.

    Whilst great art is important, education and healthcare are more of a priority.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: