The Melbourne Principles: New Rules of Public Art

Address what is urgent.
Public art has the capacity to effect change. Seek out what demands to be addressed right now without fearing failure. Ask “what happens now?”

Get Unsettled.
Transformative art experiences may unsettle what you believe to be true. The potential of public art is to go beyond what is already known of a place to suggest new possibilities. Embrace that discomfort.

Negotiate meaning; don’t explain it.
One-liners are for advertisers. Celebrate complexity and ambiguity in public artworks which confound first impressions.

Process can be an outcome.
Some of the most significant experiences of art are in the making. Public art does not need to be defined as complete. Sometimes chance can create the monumental moment.

Look closer … and closer still.
Search for the unseen. Listen for the unheard. Public art can bring light to that which may be missed at first glance.

Take time; give time.
There is value in slowness. In the making of a public artwork, building understanding and relationships takes time. A rushed process may not go deep.

Propose solutions through questions.
Artists offer alternative ways of approaching the most urgent issues of our time. Value lies in asking and testing: ‘what if things were different?’

Know when to seek permission.
The connections between people and places run deep. Public art might best be served through respectful negotiation or an unannounced provocation. Know which to choose.

Come rain or shine, weather the storm.
Making art in public is a messy business and negotiating obstacles is part of the joy. Navigate the contentious. Push on through. Don’t be deterred by stormy weather along the way.

Rules are for breaking.
There’s no such thing as steadfast rules. Create your own rules – and keep breaking them.