Site-specific art

Dan Flavin, Site-specific installation, 1996, Menil Collection
Nef pour quatorze reines by Rose-Marie Goulet, a memorial to the École Polytechnique Massacre, featuring sculptural elements integrated into a specially landscaped site

Site-specific art is artwork created to exist in a certain place. Typically, the artist takes the location into account while planning and creating the artwork. The actual term was promoted and refined by Californian artist Robert Irwin, but it was actually first used in the mid-1970s by young sculptors, such as Patricia Johanson, Dennis Oppenheim, and Athena Tacha, who had started executing public commissions for large urban sites (see Peter Frank, “Site Sculpture”, Art News, Oct. 1975). Site specific environmental art was first described as a movement by architectural critic Catherine Howett (“New Directions in Environmental Art,” Landscape Architecture, Jan. 1977) and art critic Lucy Lippard (“Art Outdoors, In and Out of the Public Domain,” Studio International, March–April 1977).


Site-specific art emerged after the modernist objects as a reaction of artists to the situation in the world. Modernist art objects were transportable, nomadic, could only exist in the museum space and were the objects of the market and commodification. Since 1960 the artists were trying to find a way out of this situation, and thus drew attention to the site and the context around this site . The work of art was created in the site and could only exist and in such circumstances - it can not be moved or changed. Site is a current location, which comprises a unique combination of physical elements: depth, length, weight, height, shape, walls, temperature.[1] Works of art began to emerge from the walls of the museum and galleries (Daniel Buren, Within and Beyond the Frame, John Weber Gallery, New York, 1973), were created specifically for the museum and galleries (Michael Asher, untitled installation at Claire Copley Gallery, Los Angeles, 1974, Hans Haacke, Condensation Cube, 1963–65, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Hartford Wash: Washing Tracks, Maintenance Outside, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, 1973), thus criticizing the museum as an institution that sets the rules for artists and viewers.[1]

Jean-Max Albert, created Sculptures de visées in Parc de la Villette related to the site, or Carlotta’s Smile, a trellis construction related to Ar. Co,’s architecture Lisbon, and to a choreography in collaboration with Michala Marcus and Carlos Zingaro, 1979.[2]

Jean-Max Albert, Carlotta's Smile, a trellis construction with a choreography, in collaboration with Michala Marcus and Carlos Zingaro, Lisbon, 1979


Outdoor site-specific artworks often include landscaping combined with permanently sited sculptural elements (Site-specific art can be linked with Environmental art). Outdoor site-specific artworks can also include dance performances created especially for the site. More broadly, the term is sometimes used for any work that is (more or less) permanently attached to a particular location. In this sense, a building with interesting architecture could also be considered a piece of site-specific art.

Artists producing site-specific works include Michele Oka Doner, Sir Jacob Epstein, Henry Moore, Lucien den Arend David Smith, Isaac Witkin, Anthony Caro, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Richard Haas, Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi, David Booker, Louise Nevelson, Leonard Baskin, George Segal, Tom Otterness, Roy Lichtenstein, Olafur Eliasson, Jenny Holzer, Sol LeWitt, Dennis Oppenheim, Cildo Meireles, Max Neuhaus, Robert Smithson, Andy Goldsworthy, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Dan Flavin, Archie Rand, Richard Serra, Michael Heizer, Patricia Johanson, James Turrell, PINK de Thierry, Paul Kuniholm Pauper, Ana Mendieta, Athena Tacha, Alice Adams, Nancy Holt, Rowan Gillespie, Scott Burton, Robert Irwin, Marian Zazeela, Guillaume Bijl, Betty Beaumont, Albert Vrana, Sally Jacques, and younger artists like Eberhard Bosslet, Mark Divo, Leonard van Munster, Luna Nera,[3] Simparch, Sarah Sze, Stefano Cagol, NatHalie Braun Barends, and Seth Wulsin. In Geneva, Switzerland, the two Contemporary Art Funds of the City and the Canton (FMAC and FCAC) are looking forward to integrate art into the architecture and in the public space since 1980 . The Neons Parrallax was conceived specifically for the Plaine de Plainpalais whose perimeter, located at the heart of the City, the challenge of the artists invited was to transpose the advertising stakes of the commercial signs of the harbour in artistic messages.[4]

Site-specific performance art, site-specific visual art and interventions are commissioned for the annual Infecting the City Festival in Cape Town, South Africa. The site-specific nature of the works allows artists to interrogate the contemporary and historic reality of the Central Business District and create work that allows the city's users to engage and interact with public spaces in new and memorable ways.

See also


  1. 1 2 Miwon Kwon. "One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity". – London and Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2002.
  3. Fisher, Fiona; Lara-Betancourt, Patricia (2011), Performance, Fashion and the Modern Interior: From the Victorians to Today, Berg Publishers, pp. 213–214, ISBN 978-1-84788-781-8
  4. Neons Parrallax
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