20 Mar 2008 5:00 pm   //   Filed under: Art

In defense of the fence

My friend Tim alerted me to a controversial public art project that just went up in Baltimore: “Framing Mount Vernon Place.”

An artist named Lee Freeman erected a gold-colored chain-link fence around the four segments of the Mount Vernon park in Baltimore, one of that city’s nicest public spaces. The fence will remain up for two weeks. The artist describes it as a way to force people to look at the park from a different perspective — outside of it. It’s also a mockery of Baltimore’s yuppiest neighborhood, though the artist doesn’t say so.

The fence has led to an outcry from residents who want their park back. A protest was planned. A Sun critic called it “bad art.”

I love Freeman’s project. I haven’t seen it myself, so I can’t judge it aesthetically. But I’m in awe at the artist’s deft skill at grabbing publicity and stirring the pot. Art controversies usually involve things that are conventionally “offensive,” like nudity or profanity or sacrilege. But what’s more offensive than a pointless fence right in the middle of somebody’s way – not for construction or repairs or safety, but for simple ego? Bonus: It’s offensive art people can talk about with anybody, even their children!

What impresses me most is that the artist somehow conned the powers-that-be into letting him seize an entire public park for two weeks! Baltimore, you are so punk’d!