“Art is in the eye of the beholder” is a cop out. There, I’ve said it. I believe that not all art is equally good, and that artworks can be (roughly) ranked in order of their goodness and artistic value. Does this sound elitist or snobbish? Perhaps. I am not suggesting that I am fully qualified for this expert ranking, but rather I am appealing for some expert artistic judgement in the use of public funds for building art and sculpture in public places.
Would “elitism” be decried in other fields, such as science and law? Surely not. I believe there is scope for expert judgement concerning art as well.
And what exactly is the problem? Well, I believe there is a trend towards more “politically correct” and “understandable” art, which has translated into more realism and less abstraction. In this photographic digital era, with a preoccupation about megapixel clarity, there is also a populist appeal for realistic images which are easily decoded by the largely art-ignorant public. This has created a bloom of “charm bracelet” art in the form of over-large puppies and other cutesy unicorn-in-formaldehyde sculpture. (Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst are the most egregious examples).
Ensuring Regional representation, rather than artistic excellence, has also led to a downgrade in the quality of art in public places. For instance, the National Gallery of Canada recently installed a string of 2D metal horse sculptures outside its front entrance. These were done by an artist from Western Canada (where the current Prime Minister’s party is from). These cut-out horses have very little artistic merit IMO, and are the latest example of charm-bracelet art. IMO the public funds for this installation would have been better spent on a more thought-provoking sculpture by Richard Serra, Henry Moore, or Eduardo Chillida (The NGC still does not not have any sculptures on display by these modern masters, but it is very proud of the giant Bourgeois spider outside the main entrance).