$610,000 for Courthouse Art? Better Be Good

Categories: News

publicartricecake.jpg
An example of public art at the Broward County Jail on the New River. It's a 32-foot high coral circle (or rice cake, as some call it). Cost to taxpayers: $480,000.


So the Broward County Commission is going to discuss putting $610,000 worth of public art in the new courthouse that is being built against taxpayers' wishes.

You might think the Pulp, hard as it is on public officials and waste of taxpayers' money, might be averse to the expense on principle. Not so. As my former colleague Edmund Newton once wrote, "Public art is part of the glue that binds the community... sometimes it can deliver a jolt of cultural clarity."

South Florida needs more of it. Broward County requires that 2 percent of the cost of new public facilities go toward public art. Again, a well-founded policy.

The problem is that, as indicated by the photo above, too often the art commissioned is... both expensive and awful. Here again is Newton, who went on a public art odyssey in South Florida a few years ago:

"Taxes, though. There's the rub. We're paying for this glop. Big time. Millions of dollars of public money have gone into adorning our public buildings and parks with works that seem to have been produced by artists channeling the guy who invented the cinder block. There are cylindrical stairwells on the corners of the parking garage at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport ($1.2 million), and the brand-new stone block assemblage in front of the Palm Beach County Courthouse ($350,000) is actually a security barrier to keep cars off the pavement. The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood airport alone houses more than $3 million of so-called art..."

So it's the same story. Good ideas ruined by the government. Does that mean we give up? Hell no. And it's not always bad or ugly; sometimes it's actually good. Inside, some of the best and worst examples of public art I could find.

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We start with one that I think delivers the jolt Newton was talking about. It's weird, it's fun, it wakes you up a little bit.  

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​This is the one on the south side of Fort Lauderdale City Hall. It may just be the most reviled and creepy sculpture in South Florida. I actually kind of like it; it's just in the wrong place. I'll defer to Newton again: "Who's That Lady? 'Aieee! 'It's the witch who got landed on by Dorothy's house.' The 'big flat lady,' Robert Stoetzer's ironic depiction of Fort Lauderdale's citizens' being flattened by the steamroller of high-rise development, has been frightening children for years. Even smokers and exhibitionists avoid the ghastly fountain."

The thing is, I actually like the sculpture. It's just not in the right place. It belongs only in our nightmares. Moving along:

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This thing is near the giant rice cake and not far from the giant coral ball. Enough said. Let's go to the airport:

publicartairport.jpg

​I like this one, which you can see on the south side of the airport from Griffin Road. Here's what the artist, Lee Brown, said about it: "The pure abstraction sculpture was intuitively generated by working with the structure relationship of light and space. The material was used to reflect, refract, define and control space and light. Therefore, light used as material becomes an entity and an integral aspect of the visual experience."

Follow that? Me either. I just thought it was cool because it's in a green field and sort of looks like a giant steel flower.

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This one poses one question: Why? You've probably had the misfortune to see this outside the BSO/Public Safety Complex on Broward Boulevard. Cost: $186,000. But I saved a good one for last: 

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Miami Herald

​It's titled "Olympic Form," and it was inspired by Mark Spitz. You have to see it and walk around it. 

 


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23 comments
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Ahas
Ahas

thanks for posting this!

cp
cp

Do not waste my tax money on this, If they want art pay for it not using public funds. It appears we have elected some big spenders that should not be in office in Florida. Its time for a change and put people in office that understand the working class folks.

Patti Lynn
Patti Lynn

The Marlin statue in front of the convention center is beautiful The City of Tamarac has commissioned some beautiful artwork: At the front of the Community Center; in the rear of the community center, between it and the Tamarac Branch Library; at the passive park on the southwest corner of McNab & Pine Island Roads. I know that the money could be used for more personal needs...BUT...the art truly is inspirational. The Public Art committee that the City of Tamarac has in place has done a really good job.

HallandaleBeachBlog
HallandaleBeachBlog

Very good public art, both in Chicago: "Cloud Gate" sculpture, Millennium Park, and Alexander Calder's "Flamingo" sculpture, Federal Plaza. http://www.chicagoarchitecture...

For the justly reviled and unwanted Broward Courthouse, so beloved already of a certain Broward elite even before it is built and likely named for someone undeserving, might I suggest a sculpture of "Revolving Justice" that keeps going round-and-round, located between the parking garage and the Courthouse? Just to remind everyone what they're in for once they walk thru the doors.

Anonymous
Anonymous

Vigeland [Sculpture] Park in Oslo, Norway is really nice - a good model for SoFla.

parkland man
parkland man

I think it would be so much nicer if the had a lawyer getting run over by a bus made out of coral out side the courthouse,because everybody inside hates them,i was also hoping they would stay in the same court house and mabey they will get really sick from being there,with all the mold in that place,because after all magets love slime and mold,

Ind_Thinker
Ind_Thinker

I'm all in favor of promoting South Florida culture through artwork. I don't have much of an art background, but I want to get my hands on some of this free money. From reviewing the wonderful examples above, I think I will rent a cement mixer this weekend, get really high, and let the magic happen. Boom - $400k +/- in my pocket.

Note to self - There's obviously no way to sway a South Florida elected official, but hire a lobbyist first to see if they can help me get the contract / grant.

Pulp
Pulp

Might I suggest Ron Book? He is clearly the best in the business right now. More coming soon on his incredible (no I didn't say incestuous) connections.

PageT
PageT

Who gets to make those choices ,spent the $Money on our Children and Old ,or Homeless .Art is NOT nessareary now Days ...

Bubba
Bubba

....or even "nessareary?"

Bubba
Bubba

When is Art necessary. Discuss

nanook5
nanook5

the sculpture at the MURT park on 5th ave in plantation....creepy leap frogging children

Broward Lawyer
Broward Lawyer

The Courthouse is absolutely necessary. The environmental reports have confirmed it. $610,000 for artwork is de minimis compared to the $350 million cost of the Courthouse. We have far too little culture in South Florida and should be spending more on public artwork anyway.

By the way, should the Courthouse be closed due to the environmental health issues, I hope you do not have a pending litigation case that you need resolved as this community's legal system will come to a grinding halt. This is not a hyperbolic statement. Just ask the County or the Chief Judge.

Rnice69
Rnice69

Wow that would be great to see all the bs litigation stop in broward,look at all the yellow pads and pens sitting on the sidelines, and the lawyers have nobody to rob,no more fake or over billing due to the greed of stealing lawyers,the only reason i dont want to see it close is the chance the lawyers can come down with like changing problems,cancer,aids,something like that,the new building would be made for more stealing and room for more lawyers,its funny look back at walgreens,cvs and some of the other chains in the past with smaller or older stores there was alot less crime,i have to compare them both because they are the same,and as you know people go to jail for robbing a drug store i think more lawyers need to go to jail for robbing people and companys,and ther are plenty of lawyers going to jail we need much more,as soon as rick scott brakes the florida bar that is a fn joke, its just a good old boys club,you will see many more go by by,and i like the idear that the gov is a bizz man and im sure when he was running his company's lawyers were trying to steal from him like crazy,its pay back for them,it cost him 35 million of his own money to get the job,and he makes around 150,00 a year,you better start ducking and running you fn lowlife sb lawyers,hes coming after you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Gator
Gator

If you require unanimous agreement on public artwork, none would be installed. I'm sure some Renaissance critics panned the Sistine Chapel's artwork, and there are some people who would prefer that Thomas Kincade paintings adorn our public buildings.

Ideally, public art should be exhibt a wide range of styles, from traditional to the avant guarde. Some of the most famous public artworks were derided when originally installed (e.g., the Picasso statue at Chicago's City Hall or Robert Indiana's Love sculpture).

The rubes who claim now is not the time to purchase public art would never find the right time to do so. I don't think that everyone in Broward County indirectly ponying up less than fifty cents for courthouse art is out of line.

skydove
skydove

You're right, of course, that there'll never be "unanimous agreement on public artwork." The problem with the bad examples shown is that regardless of the traditions represented, they're the dregs of derivative. When a work is successful, like the beautiful airport park creation, "derivative" isn't a bad thing; rather, viewers can "derive" pleasure from recognizing some of the work's antecedents. However, when so many pieces of public art appear to represent the triumph of salesmanship or cronyism over taste, reluctance on the part of the public to make additional six-figure purchases of space fillers is understandable.

My favorite outdoor (quasi-public) work of art is around behind the Parker Playhouse. It's maybe 3 feet high: a fist on the back of a man whose torso is raised enough so that the hands can grasp the thumb on top of the fist. The fist is very large in proportion to the man pinned down, and it ends a bit beyond the wrist.

Art ?
Art ?

Reply to Jack. People with BAD TASTE !

Jack Carlo
Jack Carlo

I'm an advocate of pubic art but what bothers me is the new courthouse.....the people of Broward did not vote to build it using their own money....and to insult the intelligence of it's constituent's, the county officials are using public art to soften the blow. C'mon on. The family stick figures, in from of the Broward County Sheriff's building was controversial for the get go. This grossly over-budgetted building is located in a blighted neighbor that has been ignored for years. The symbol of a happy family, 2 adults, 2 kids....was a kick in the ass to that area's population. There was much argument about placing that artwork there....again....falling on deaf ears. By the way, who sits on the Public Art Committee???

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