Introduction Depression. It is believed that President Roosevelt


The following essay examines a piece of public art and the space it is found in order to discuss art, beauty and the purpose of public art. The essay specifically focuses on the Unnamed Sculpture at Pier 39 in San Francisco and uses the concepts from Semiotics to analyze the space and art piece together. Also, the essay discusses the purpose of the Unnamed Sculpture at Pier 39 in San Francisco as a public art. The Skygate in San Francisco is a modern sculpture that was designed by Isamu Noguchi.This public art is usually set for free entertainment each Wednesday at noon. The Skygate has a natural framing that is presented by trees and thus giving it an outstanding background. The contributions of art in public places have not been fully recognized.

Art in public places affects the everyday lives of millions of people across the globe as more money is spent while commissioning them. However, the critical recognition of public art is yet to be recognized despite its proliferation. This is as a result of such factors as lack of a clear historical framework, evaluation as well as confusion concerning the definition of art in public places. According to some scholars, art in public places has been in existence since time immemorial. According to them, public art existed in form of Lascaux’s cave paintings. Other scholars believe that art in public places came into practice in 1967 following the creation of public arts program by the National Endowment for the Arts. According to some historians, art in public places began in 1935 with the establishment of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which was aimed at providing the US citizens with economic relief following the Great Depression. It is believed that President Roosevelt enhanced the proliferation of arts in public places during this time by providing employment opportunities to thousands of artists who worked in the public works division of WPA.

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Thus,the; the main challenge with regards to public arts is establishing the time line for its development. This makes the definition of arts in public places to be at issue. Since the term ‘art in public places’ was coined over fifty years ago, it is disappointing to note that the term has not been clearly defined. According to Hein’s, public art has the capacity of occupying public space and also drawing public into debate and intelligent discourse. According to him, art has the potential to of engendering new ways of thinking and new perspectives .Similarly, Barber in his ‘Cultural Interventions in the Public Sphere’ book stated that public art provides people with an opportunity to develop a range of resistant and critical strategies that have an effect of encouraging multiple responses(Merryman and Elsen 656-658).

Arts in public places can exist in various forms including letters, orchards, sculptures, displays, monuments, memorials among others. A large number of arts in public places are found in towns and urban areas even though some are found in rural areas. Art in public places are found everywhere i.e. they are displayed on side of buildings, airport terminals, recreational parks, business organizations e.t.c.

(Merryman and Elsen 656-658).

San Francisco’s Skygate and semiotic approach

Usually, arts in public works have the effect of conveying meaning to millions of spectators. Semiotics is commonly defined as the ‘science of signs’ implying that, pubic art is intended to have some significant meaning and purpose to human beings.

According to semiotic approach, public arts can provide meanings in various forms including; words, texts and codes (Ashton 301). Isamu Noguchi in his Skygate work adopted a semiotic approach by harmonizing both the architecture and the space. He created an attraction site with a view of communicating a range of meanings to societies, spectators, designers and all the interested persons across the globe. The sculpture is constructed in such a way that, in absence of written records, the space and site can provide people with the required information for understanding the identities. The work by Isamu Noguchi takes Skygate identity from the site as it reflects the space and architecture around it in manner that is accurate and distorted.

Despite the fact that Skygate’s title has a chaotic title, the space and the subject are harmonious. Isamu Noguchi in his sculptural work has combined shape with mirror-polished stainless steel to produce an attractive public art (Ashton 301).

Purpose of San Francisco’s Skygate as a public art

Skygate in San Francisco as a public art enhances democracy in that it is accessible to everyone.

Basa (2008) in his studies states that public arts should be designed in such a way that everyone is capable of viewing it. Public art that is accessible to everyone promotes public response and support. Public arts form an integral part of any public environment due to the fact that they are seen everyday by millions of people. Art in public places usually have an enormous impact with regards to the impressions that are created about a place.

The appearance of public art plays an important role as far as people’s feelings are concerned. It is for this reason that millions of dollars are spent for public arts. Also, the appearance of arts in public places can become a subject of debate in editorial columns. It is therefore important that arts in public places have a good appearance as it can become a public issue (McNiff 36). Skygate has the effect of attracting larger audiences from all walks of life. The youths are the majority of audiences who comes to Skygate.

The sculpture is a major tourist attraction as millions of tourists tours United States to view it. Throngs of people constantly fill the park everyday. This public art provides people of all races, ages, nationalities and classes with an opportunity to interact with each other. This in turn plays an important role of earning the United States Federal Government foreign exchange.

This sculpture has become a major tourist marketing (Fleming and Goldman 201-225). This public art is found in an open space and therefore, people can use the environment for multiple purposes ranging form politics to social interaction. The art piece is found in an open space and does not have an obstructive effect on the surrounding buildings i.e. it is both people and environmental friendly. This aspect has the effect of forcing people to visit Skygate on a constant basis. People are usually proud of art in public places that are found where they live.

Everyone has a stake in public arts and everyone wants to be associated with them. First people are concerned with enjoying their environments. Secondly; they prefer to visit those places that favorably impress them. People also prefer that their self image and self worth be reflected by the appearance of public arts (Fleming and Goldman 201-225). Also, the material that is used to construct the public art is environmental friendly. The artists were careful while they were choosing the kind of materials to use when constructing the public art. They preferred using polished-stainless steel materials which are undestructive.

The investors demand that public arts be well planned and attractive as this increases property values. Art in public places is an important component as far as any strong and vibrant community is concerned. The Skygate in the San Francisco acts as an economic development tool. It has seen numerous cities jump start their economies.

According to a research by Basa (2008), major towns that have a robust and lively art in public places are associated with sustained economic growth.


Skygate as a piece of art has an aesthetic appeal and this makes it to look attractive. The art piece is in accordance with the semiotics approach of arts in public space. This public art has the effect of appealing to a large audience.

Its design can satisfy the large mass of people who experiences it on a regular basis. Aesthetic appeal is necessary as it significantly contributes to how the public feels and values a given public art. Aesthetic appeal has social and cultural components and it goes beyond simple expressions of a person’s taste .Public arts should be designed in such a way that the beauty resides in the art piece as opposed to the beholder’s mind.

Works Cited

Ashton, Dore. Noguchi East and West.

New York. University of California Press, 1993. Basa, Lynn. The Artist’s Guide to Public Art: How to Find and Win Commissions. New York: Allworth Communications, Inc., 2008. Fleming, Lee and Goldman, Melisa.

The art of placemaking: interpreting community through public art and urban. Michigan: The University of Michigan, 2007. McNiff, Shaun. Integrating the Arts in Therapy: History, Theory, and Practice.Springfield: Charles C Thomas Publisher, 2009.

Merryman, John and Elsen, Albert. Law, ethics, and the visual arts. Alphen aa den Rijn: Kluwer Law International, 2002.


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