Dynamist Blog

Public Art at Private Expense


The Dallas Observer's blog brings word of plans to tear down one of my neighborhood's most enjoyable facades: the Madi Museum/Kilgore law firm. The building's facade and art space aren't that old. They date roughly to our arrival in Dallas six years ago. The artist who created the colorful plates surrounding the building is suing to block demolition. From the Observer post (via D Magazine's FrontBurner:

"The point is, the artwork is unique and kind of special, a wonderful expresson of public art," Winocour says. "Dallas has very little, unlike New York or Los Angeles, because there's not a lot of public investment in this city. We have billionaire philanthropists like Ray Nasher, but there's little public art, and it would be nice to present it in a city that likes to see itself as a world-class city. If it wants to be London or Paris it needs to encourage this. And it's great that at one time Mr. Masterson did...but if you challenge the constituionality of a statute designed to protect the artist and work and cast yourself as a patron of the arts, I think you're talking our of both sides of your mouth."

From what little I know about the law, I don't think he has much of a case. It sounds like artists who attach their art to buildings don't enjoy automatic protections, only contractual ones. But the more important point is what this interpretation of the law--or even the constant threat of litigation--would do to incentives. If the law makes interesting-looking buildings hard to tear down, nobody will build interesting-looking buildings. If the Madi Museum goes, I'll miss its happy face. But at least we were able to enjoy it for a few years.

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