Information to support developers, owners, and tenants to provide high-quality public art in accessible public spaces and to assist in commissioning, procurement and display of public art.


Image credit: Graham Bennett, Extant, Knox Plaza, 148 Victoria Street, 2015, sculpture. Photographs by Maurice Lye, courtesy of the photographer.

Art makes our city a richer place

Christchurch in the rebuild offers many opportunities to contribute to the identity of our city.

In particular the use of high quality public art in publically accessible spaces can offer an ongoing legacy of connection to place and people.

Private developers, building owners and tenants have an important role in improving and highlighting the inherent strengths and characteristics of the areas they develop, own and occupy. Enabling artists to work with design teams can add significant value to a project in identifying and reflecting local character and narratives.

Council, as a kaitiaki or guardian of artistic and cultural heritage, supports diverse well-considered public art as a key opportunity for developments to provide a point of difference to existing or potential employers, investors, residents and tenants and contribute to cultural and economic activity in the city.

Public art has been used for centuries to enrich city environments, attract, create landmarks, enliven and entertain and to create character and desirability. The contributions developers and businesses make today support a full and vibrant city that celebrates our artistic excellence now and into the future.

“Graham Bennett’s sculpture at [the] centre [of the plaza] reflects our city now and the growing importance we place on public artwork.” – John Ryder (Duncan Cotterill Plaza)

If you would like to discuss how your development can commission an artwork contact a community Arts Advisor or call 03 941 8999 and ask to speak to a Public Art Advisor.

The best approach to deliver high quality artwork


Image credit: Lonnie Hutchinson, Kahu Matarau, Justice and Emergency Precinct, 121 Tuam Street, 2017, integrated visual art, aluminium wall panels. Photo: Mapihi Martin-Paul (Matapopore).

Council recognises that the right partnerships are key to the development of high quality artwork. 

To ensure high quality artworks of excellence that stand the test of time, Council supports public art that is developed with a specific site in mind. This means artwork which is responsive to the particulars of the place, its history, current context, or future uses. 

To enable this we encourage developers to engage artists at the earliest stages of the development. Professional artists can contribute significantly as part of the design team. This allows for the artist to work closely with the project team including architects (both built form and landscape) to develop and site the work appropriately.

It also allows for the work to be developed to the appropriate scale (both standalone or integrated) and for any services required to be incorporated in the build process rather than incurring additional costs at the end.

Plonk art (public art which is not commissioned specifically for a site) is not encouraged except in limited circumstances. Occasionally there can be a valid rationale behind the selection of a work not commissioned to reflect and relate to a specific site however this should be carefully considered in discussion with the artist. You may be able to commission a site responsive work for a similar budget.

Finding an artist


Image credit Vans the Omega and Beastman, The Colombo, 363 Colombo Street, 2013, wall mural. photo: Watch this Space

There are as many types of artists as there are opportunities.

You may already like the work of a particular artist and feel comfortable to get in touch directly. Most artists have websites or Facebook pages and you can check before taking the next step.

However you may want some assistance contacting one and have a specialist organisation broker the relationship to a greater or lesser degree.

A partnership with an organisation that assists with the delivery of public art projects could be as simple as providing a list of possible artists based on what the opportunity is, through to a more formal relationship where they draw up a brief, contract the artist on your behalf and manage the delivery of the project.

Council encourages building owners, developers, architects, designers and tenants to consider engaging artists at all stages of a buildings life, including planning, bespoke interior details and artworks, music, writing and theatre.

If you need support finding artists or with the process of engaging artists, Council Arts Advisors can assist.

If you are an agency, a curator, writer, composer or performer with experience in creating work for or in the public realm then please feel free to contact us also.

The opportunities


Image credit: Wongi Wilson, Boxed Quarter, cnr St Asaph and Madras St, (2017), wall murals.

The approach that is taken can be varied depending upon the opportunities and vision for the development.

There are many ways your development can contribute to ecology of art activity in Ōtautahi Christchurch. From visual art opportunities such as integrating art into dedicated public spaces, entrances or façades to space within the development that could be provided as a studio or residency opportunity, building an ongoing relationship and story with the location.

Likewise do you have areas that could be programmed to enliven them with activity such as temporary exhibitions, performances, musicians or pop up theatre?

In this way a range of creative practice can respond to your development to provide a real point of difference, provide activation and draw people in and encourage them to linger and enjoy. 

Useful public art definitions

Public artist A person whose professional skill set is the creation of art. They will have the creative and conceptual skills and experience to work on public art projects. This will be demonstrated through previous work, exhibitions and commissions
Integrated artwork This approach engages an artist with the aim of creating a visual ‘language’ that connects the various aspects of the project and links it to its environment. As part of the design team an artist would respond to the functional elements of the development, such as determining a colour palette, or designing specific items such as paving and furniture. You could also pair an artist with a lighting designer for example. These types of collaborations can add significant depth and vision to a project.
Standalone artwork The other main approach is to develop a standalone artwork that may be for a key site or façade for example.  Both approaches can be incorporated into the same site.
Plonk art Artwork that is not designed with its site in mind or an already existing artwork placed in a site without context or consideration.
Site specific Artwork that is developed with the site in mind. The work will respond to the site, for example its history, present or future uses, or any other number of aspects of that particular site and the context of that site in the city more broadly.
Design Design seeks to solve problems for which there is a need. Design solves a problem using rules of design. Design in relation to public art projects is not considered artwork.
Permanent For public art this usually means a period of 15-25 years.