"While the question mark in the book’s title might lead readers to believe that museums and public art are antithetical, the compilation of essays point, instead, to the many instances when museums and public art projects have found common ground, shared the same space, developed the same audiences, sought the same goals, or settled on a mutual benefit. Moreover, many of the case studies examined blur the boundaries between public art—defined as art located in open, often urban, spaces—and museums—described as enclosed institutions whose function is the display of art—so that distinctions constructively, and productively, break down.
At the center of the book is a discussion of what is public; how might we reconcile, for example, the public-ness of museums and the private-ness of public space? Public art consistently engages with the politics of space, how democratic is the street, and what intangible barriers there may be to audiences. Many authors address the issue of inside and outside, and the gray space in between, in this anthology. Just as location is important, so are audiences, and what, or better, who is the public in museums and for art outside is another grounding theme of this compendium. A highlight comes from thinking about the collaboration between the museum’s educational mission and its alignment with the tenets of public art. They are both concerned with engaging audiences, building communities, and challenging power. Another critical strain is the tension between public good and private interests, which in reality, affect both museums’ operations and the sphere of public art. Unfortunately, today, this is one of major—at times inconspicuous—questions regarding the production of culture, of which museums and public art are both embroiled within. On a positive note, the book suggests that an avenue ripe for future exploration is the integration of the museum and public art through the nexus of social practice, a dialogical model of art making that centers on audiences. This approach would dismantle the distinctions of site and foreground the public, bringing people together in an enriching experience."