The peak body protecting and promoting the Australian visual arts sector

Public Space

Artists are increasingly working and presenting in public spaces and buildings other than galleries and museums. The scope of ways artists engage with public space is endless.

Art in Public Space

Outside the gallery

Suzann Victor

Suzann Victor, Skin to Skin (2005). World Square, Sydney, Australia. Public Artwork: light-responsive stainless steel plates, wind-directed LED lights, antenna. Commissioned by: Multiplex Developments | Consultant: Marla Guppy, Guppy & Associates | Engineers: Taylor Thomson & Whitting | Fabricator: Coffey Engineering. Profile from Pitt St entry. Photo: Joan Cameron-Smith.

Public art can be monumental, permanent, lasting many years, or temporary, lasting several months, weeks, or minutes. It can be site-specific - drawing its meaning from and adding to the meaning of a particular site or place; non site-specific - located in a public place primarily for display purposes; complimentary to the space - designed specifically to meet existing architecture; or may intentionally obstruct public space - social interventions, graffiti, etc.

Many of the issues relating to Public Art have remained constant over at least the last two decades. Common issues with commissioning permanent public art works include requirements set out in EOIs, the selection process, the use of appropriate contracts, the insuring of public art work and practitioners, compliancy, the unauthorised use of practitioners’ intellectual property, moral rights and the disposal or relocation of art works. There are also numerous issues for artists working ephemerally with public space. These include permits and permissions, liability, insurance, and more. Often artists find themselves negotiating with the many contradictions in the system.

We are currently consulting with the sector to inform a set of National Public Art Guidelines.

Find out more here.

Code of Practice

Chapter 3: Commissioning Art in the Public Space

Code of Practice

Chapter 3 in NAVA's Code of Practice sets out the best practice standards for public art commissioning for both the artist and the commissioner.

Artists and the City

Will Coles

Will Coles, Ned Kelly #2.

NAVA Executive Director Tamara Winikoff discusses the use of artists to provide vitality and excitement in public spaces and the problems that arise in the process of commissioning public art projects.

Bek Conroy

Space Rangers

Space Rangers: Teik Kim Pok, Rebecca Conroy, Chris Fox, Sumugan Sivanesan. Photo: Matt Venables, 2012

Using the laundromat as a small business model and place of public gatherings, Rebecca Conroy's latest artist led project attempts to strike the balance between the feast and famine of creative work.

Maria White and Tristan Meecham

Maria White

Artists and curators, Maria White and Tristan Meecham discuss the hierarchies of power that control public space, and what is gained or lost when artists seek to exert influence in the public domain as a site of activism.


Code of Practice - NAVA
Curating Cities - UNSW, City of Sydney, Object, Carbon Arts, University of Cincinnati
ixia: public art think tank - Birmingham UK
Public Art Guidelines for Artists and Commissioners - Arts Law
PUBLIC ART making it happen - Arts SA
Public Art (Now) - Situations UK 2014
Public Art Research
Public Art Toolkit - Creative City Network of Canada
RMIT Art in Public Space Researchers and Alumnus