Thinking About “Lobby Art”
After recently reading some musings from Andrea Kirsh on “lobby art” in museums, I’ve been reflecting on my own glass work in lobbies and the somewhat contested genre of lobby art.
For example, does art in a lobby have a different value or purpose than art more deeply nested within a building? Wherein lies the difference between art selected for a lobby versus art created for a lobby? What different kinds of choices are involved in thinking about art for, say, a hotel or hospital lobby versus a museum lobby?
Art critic Gayle Clemans, in a Seattle Times review, notes that “lobby art” can be a touchy term, suggesting “the kind of blandly acceptable, nonthreatening art that administrators and designers seem to think is required in public lobbies.” Yet she then proceeds to praise seven compelling examples of lobby art, all created by different artists for Seattle City Light’s elevator lobbies in the Seattle Municipal Tower.
Clemans proposes that these works are successful for the following reasons:
- They are visually pleasing.
- They are (at least ostensibly) politically neutral.
- They meet their commissioner’s goals of enhancing the workplace and drawing attention to the company’s mission.
- They are stimulating and mesmerizing.
Clemans believes that last point is the one that sets the Seattle City Light works apart from less compelling examples of lobby art. They don’t just look nice or fulfill a functional purpose; they also provoke contemplation and wonder.
I have to agree with Clemans; though, with regard to her last point, I don’t think this distinction is specific to art in lobbies. Indeed it’s the fine line between any mediocre versus great work of art.