The art and design fabrication company Urban Art Projects recently presented its 2023 list of the 12 standout public art projects of 2023, “chosen for their impact”, in partnership with internationally recognized curators. In the Artsy Editorial, UAP curatorial director Natasha Smith said that the 2023 selection “is incredibly sensitive, beautiful, and of the ‘now.’ Themes center on revealing truths; truths about places, histories, cultural erasure, sexual and racial inequality, and war. However, all is not lost. Light is also a theme that shines through as a call to undertake restorative discourses that enable shared learnings. It is certainly a thought-provoking collection of incredible public artworks for 2023.”
The curators were Dina Amin, curator and CEO of the Visual Arts Commission; Tairone Bastien, an independent curator based in Toronto and assistant professor at Ontario College of Art and Design University; Hedwig Fijen, founding director of Manifesta; Nora Lawrence, artistic director and chief curator of Storm King Art Center; and Nathan Pōhio, artist and senior curator of Māori Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and co-vice president of Te Ūaka Lyttleton Museum.
Among the best public art of 2023 selected by the curators is Lani Maestro’s No Pain Like This Body, No Body Like This Pain. Tairone Bastien wrote of his visit to the site: “The most incisive public artwork I experienced this year was a text-based installation by Lani Maestro… at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite location in the city’s Financial District, first installed in 2022. High above me, two red neon signs glowed with the work’s title. The twin phrases gave me pause, piercing the night like a violence that felt out of place with the artwork’s surroundings. Maestro is well known for minimal yet provocative text-based works that are site responsive, unearthing a place’s resonant histories and narratives.”
“The two brief lines poignantly address human suffering, which is a terrifying condition that sharply contrasts with the work’s sterile and muted environment—a business district of characterless hotels, office towers, and high-end boutiques. This is some of the costliest real estate in one of the most expensive cities in the world and is, no doubt, under constant surveillance and policing. It’s a dehumanizing façade that belies the reality of Vancouver’s most vulnerable populations who are marginalized and invisibilized yet inextricably part of the city.”
“The full power of Maestro’s work is its ability to bridge these two sides of the city. Dispelling the myth of Vancouver, often celebrated for its natural beauty and high standard of living (for some), is vital, and hopefully a dynamic way forward for public art in the city.”
Lani Maestro is a multi-awarded Filipino-Canadian artist who divides her time between Canada, the Philippines, and France. She works in installation, sound, video, bookworks, and writing. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of the Philippines and a Master of Fine Arts from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. In 2018, she received an Honorary Doctorate Honoris Causa from NSCAD University in Canada.
The UAP’s Best Public Art for 2023 were made by artists in public places around the globe: Queens and Manhattan, New York; London, England; Vancouver, Canada; Pristina, Kosovo; Osnabrück, Germany; Ōtautahi Christchurch, New Zealand; Sydney, Australia; and Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. The images and descriptions are found here.
Written by PA Correspondent