Works of art exist in many places beyond museum walls. In the Public Eye explores the sometimes ambivalent relationship between audiences and artworks, especially in a public context.
Between 1974 and 2001, the Williams College Museum of Art commissioned the three projects shown in this exhibition — Alice Aycock’s The Williams College Project, David Hammons’ Rock Fan and Louise Bourgeois’ Eyes — for a specific site in Williamstown. Each received vastly different reactions from students, faculty, staff, and the wider Williamstown community. The museum’s collection now houses a variety of related objects made before, during, and after their outdoor counterparts inhabited campus, both as ephemera and as works of art in their own right.
These projects and their legacies ask us to consider art’s capacity to change in material and meaning over time. Who comprises “the public,” who defines art, and who chooses where artworks reside? Each of these objects prompts consideration of our assumptions about the individuals who constitute the audience for a work of art. The stories displayed here raise questions about how the positionalities—especially race, gender, and occupation—of those individuals interact with our understandings of art.