Past Events

Public Art and its Publics in Post-War Britain

Research Lunch – Robert Sutton

  • 16 February 2018
  • 12:30 – 2:00 pm
  • Paul Mellon Centre

The public art of post-war Britain has received much attention in recent years. Following the listing of forty one important examples of public works in 2016, the Director of Listing at Historic England, Roger Bowlder, said “These sculptures were commissioned and created for everybody and have become a precious national collection of art which we can all share.” However, directions of critical enquiry from the field of public art studies suggest further questions that might problematize such an unequivocal statement. To what extent were the imagined audiences for such works really ever ‘everybody’? Who commissioned them, and what was their motivation? How easily might we consider the nature of the spaces into which these works were placed public, and do they remain as such? This paper will present some inroads towards considering just who or what we mean by ‘public’ when referring to the public art of the early post-war period as the means by which to interrogate the cultural legacies of the post-war period.


Image caption: Henry Moore, Crowd Looking at a Tied-Up Object, 1942. The British Museum

About the speaker

  • Head and shoulders portrait of Robert James Sutton

    Dr Robert James Sutton is a lecturer in modern and contemporary art. He has taught at universities including Oxford Brookes, Coventry and Nottingham and he is currently working on a critical history of the public art strategies that developed in Greater London immediately after the Second World War. This project developed out of his doctoral research into Henry Moore’s public works for educational establishments in the years 1936-1950, completed at the University of York in collaboration with Tate.