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Neon lights shaped to spell the word "ART"

Public Art: A sound investment or waste of money?

13 June, 2019
Venue: The Old Rum Store, Chippendale

Public art. 

In conjunction, these two simple words tend to provoke heated reactions from even the most level-headed of us.

Some contend public art is an indispensable element of municipal planning that enhances our shared environment. Inspiring us to elevate above the grind of our daily lives, the creative works of artists can provide a financial boon, attracting a bustling tourist trade that trickles down through the community.

Others argue that public art is a waste of public funds. Too often an afterthought at the end of major infrastructure projects, poorly placed, interpretatively obscure and aesthetically objectionable, such art is often derided by its publics.

What would good public art look like? When everyone’s a critic and large-scale works are funded from the meagre resources allocated to affordable housing and other practical services, it’s a tricky call to make.

To help us, we’ve invited the ardent opinions of the artist responsible for the Wynyard Station escalator installation, a sceptical City of Sydney Councillor and an art curator with a point to prove.


  • Students/Staff — $15  
  • Alumni — $20 
  • Friends — $25 

*ticket prices include drinks and catering

Our experts

Chris Fox, Architecture

Chris Fox


I thought I would always be an architect but instead I became an artist. Later, I ended up studying architecture and now work across both disciplines as a sculptor developing public art. When I am not teaching architecture students about art, I am creating large scale public art works. I design, document, fabricate and project manage these works. If there is one thing I know, it is that public art can change the way people think and feel about their city. Public art is an essential part of the way we understand ourselves, our past and our future.

Chris is a graduate of the University of Sydney (BVArts(1998)).

Christine Forster City of Sydney Councillor

Christine Forster
City of Sydney Councillor


I am a City of Sydney Councillor first elected in September 2012 and re-elected in 2016. I’m passionate about Sydney and committed to helping make it the world’s best place to live, work and visit, working hard within the local communities to make this happen.

I’m also a tireless LGBTIQ rights campaigner and I was heavily involved in the Marriage Equality YES campaign in 2017. I’m an Ambassador for Pride in Diversity’s Sapphire Program for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in the workplace.

I believe that public artwork is always subjective and often controversial, attracting a great deal of attention and comment from those it is designed to engage – the public.

Christine is a graduate of the University of Sydney (BEc(1987)).

Anne Loxley Senior Curator, C3West, Museum of Contemporary Art

Anne Loxley
Senior Curator, C3West, Museum of Contemporary Art

I lobbied to be taught art at high school. I was successful, and so began the most enduring relationship of my life, resulting in more than three decades as a writer and curator of visual art. Artists are essential. They provide insightful, courageous ways of understanding ourselves and our worlds, and their independent, rigorous ways of thinking are of huge value beyond the gallery. But artists and curators and all involved should approach the making and context of public art with great caution. It is an area fraught with risks and traps.

Anne is a graduate of the University of Sydney (BA(1987)).

Banner image by Ian Williams on Unsplash