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Commissioning and Curating Contemporary Public Art

Master's level | 30 credits | Course code: VCUR01

The course does not start as a freestanding course this academic year but can start within a program or a course package. Please contact the department for further information.

About the Course


What is the nature of public art? What do the policy-makers, commissioners, curators, artists and other specialists working with public art need to know about this rapidly changing and expanded field of practice? What do communities wishing to invite public art into their environments, or wishing to instigate public art commissions, need to know in order to pursue their desires and ambitions? Who can commission public art? What does “public-ness” mean in the contexts of public art? 

What are the processes and frameworks  that operate when art is created in, and for, public space? Who is it commissioned for? What are the challenges of curating art in the public realm? What is the public realm? What are the spaces of "public-ness” in an era of network technologies, population displacement and changing political imaginaries? How can curators, commissioners, diverse publics, communities, artists, and other practitioners effectively move between ideas and ideals of public culture, and the pragmatic contexts of actual decision-making, production, procurement, installation, and planning processes? What, if any, are the possible relationships between public art and local democracy?

These are some of the basic questions that this course tries to answer. It approaches these questions based on conflicting perceptions of public space and public culture, and the highly contested themes of “the public sphere”. It also emphasizes the ways in which theory and practice interact, so as not to privilege theory over practice, but rather to look at how different perspectives - rooted in practical contexts as well as informed by critical theoretical analysis - connect to different possibilities in realising art as an integral part of public culture and public life.

This advanced level course invites applications from a range of different participants, including commissioners, curators, activists, community organisers, planners, decision-makers, policy-makers, artists, and other professionals working with the public realm. This part-time course is designed to facilitate professionals and people with existing commitments to access continuing professional development in university education in a flexible manner.

Using blended-learning (i.e., combining online and face-to-face meetings) this distance course is based on a combination of online lectures and seminars, and four short intensive periods of study in Gothenburg, Sweden.


The course focuses on strategies and processes for curating, commissioning and producing public art. We discuss both logistical issues regarding commission, production and applications for funding of public art as well as theoretical concepts ranging from site specificity to social and political engagement. You are also introduced to artistic, anthropological and other interdisciplinary methods to define and map a public space, as well as strategies for activating, engaging and mobilising publics. We identify conflicts with respect to public art, and seek to use these constructively as part of the course dialogue and learning situation.

 We examine how different national legislative and policy frameworks effect different outcomes in different national contexts, with examples drawn from different countries, including the Nordic countries, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and Ireland. In this
way you gain basic knowledge about different legislative frameworks concerning art in public, and are given the means to study and analyse the different national or regional legislative and policy frameworks in relation to which you operate. For example, wIthin the Swedish context we focus on the law on freedom of expression, the Public Procurement Act, funding and budget strategies, as well as payment models for artists.

You will, through case studies and discussions, gain insight into the various forms of interdisciplinary work in contemporary art, urban and rural planning, architecture, spatial studies and social sciences, which are activated by ordering and implementing a public contemporary art project. Furthermore, we focus on citizens / denizens, aspects of local democracy and decision-making processes in municipalities in connection with the diverse processes and practices of public art.

Commissioning and Curating Contemporary Public Art’ is organised in collaboration with Public Art Agency Sweden and other partners in Region Västra Götaland.


More Information

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Course Syllabus


Tuition Fee

Please contact the department.
EU/EEA citizens, Swedish residence permit holders and exchange students do not pay fees. More information on:

Study Guidance

Lena Collin
Contact form
031 - 786 1107
Kristinelundsgatan 6-8


Valand Academy
Box 132
40530 Göteborg
Visiting address: Vasagatan 50

Page Manager: Pontus Sundén
Last update: 6/15/2018 12:12 PM

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Page Manager: Pontus Sundén|Last update: 10/16/2018

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