Public, Private, and the Arts

Panel Discussion Wed 18 Oct 2000
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We thrive on dichotomies and often fail to see how categories blend one into the other. Definitions of public and private are the heart of much modern political theory and many political confrontations in our society. And yet, the two spheres are increasingly and deliberately co-mingled in American culture. For example, in the visual arts and in literature, what was formerly a closed-off private world is thrown open to the public-witness the controversy over Saul Bellow's novel Ravelstein or the works in any museum of contemporary art. This breakdown of categories is discussed with respect to a variety of cases: Where should the lines be drawn between public and private funding of the arts? Who owns the vernacular gardens built on public lots? What obligations do advertisers have when their powerfully styled, seductive imagery is placed unavoidably in the public gaze? How does American consumerism affect people's reaction to the private/public dilemma?

Judith Mara Guttman, author of Lewis W. Hine and the American Social Conscience

Glenn Lowry, Director, Museum of Modern Art.
Jonathan Levi, founding editor of Grantas-Us, arts advisor to the New York City School Chancellor
Kathryn Harrison, author of The Kiss