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Boston's 50 best public works of art in handy list format

Greg Cook ranks 50 pieces of public art in Boston and explains his decisions.

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He forgot the Doug Bennett signs.

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Is Graffiti considered public art or a public nuisance that cost the taxpayers millions to remove and clean up?

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1. The water bearers at the top of the façade at 116 Huntington Avenue.

2. The Pear in Edward Everett Square.

3. Sleeping Moon at Ashmont Station.

4. The James Brendan Connolly Statue (The Long Jumper) at Columbus / Moakley Park in South Boston.

5. The Harriet Tubman statue in the South End.

6. The Yarn around the poles in front of where Martin Richard was killed on Boylston Street.

7. The sculptures in the brick on Winthrop Place (Between Otis and Arch Streets).

8. The plaques on the Boylston Street and Huntington Avenue fire stations in memorial to those who have died out of those stations.

9. I know its is temporary (coming down in October), but the Ai Weiwei zodiac sculptures on the Greenway are great.

One bone to pick - The Holocaust Memorial. Really? That is neck and neck with the Irish Famine Memorial as some of the worst, politically petty, and poorly done monuments in the city. What are we telling people when they walk through vent shafts only to be greeted by that crook Mayor Curley? Both pieces of "art" (The IFM, not the Curley) were erected by local (mostly suburban) monied interests looking for exposure to their ideas both ethnically and ideologies as an F you to everyone else. Take away the first grade context of both works and you get nothing but crappy art abutting tourist theme parks. I was in Budapest a few weeks back and the Holocaust memorial; a graveyard and a weeping tree with names of each victim written on metal leaves, was a true expression of grief rather than what looks like a vent pipe for Trigen / Veolia' steam pipes. I wanted to go to Germany right after seeing the memorial in Budapest and start smacking people around. The Boston Holocaust Memorial, thanks for shining those lights in my eyes. I'm thinking about my retinas, not the Final Solution after walking through it. The patrons of the memorial could have done a better job.

The Irish Famine Memorial; Somebody please feed it to the foundry.

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The Irish Famine Memorial; Somebody please feed it to the foundry.

Had anyone else said this here, you would have attacked them for being Anti-Catholic or Anti-Irish or reduced it to your usual clannish hatreds, or whined about how Irish were enslaved, etc.

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That memorial is pretty widly derided. Most of them are pretty awful. The oy really good one I know of is the one in New York that brought over a cottage and land from Ireland. Memorials, when they happen, can be a lot more interesting than most of the ones in Boston.

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I wouldn't. Get a user name if you are going to attack me. Thanks.

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is what I'd add to the list.

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I love that piece.

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Just saw it last week. A lot of detail in that one.

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To be fair, the New England Holocaust Memorial was designed by an architect. So really "not art".

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And I would classify her memorials as art.

I agree with John--the Holocaust and famine memorials are terrible, and I'd throw in the Armenian memorial as well--I like the labyrinth but have no clue what connection it draws to the genocide.

I might add the ether fountain to this list--it's kind of an odd one and in a quiet corner of the public garden but I've always found it oddly moving.

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Comes in at #10.

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IMAGE(https://elmercatdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/eb-mobile.jpg)
I enjoy looking at this sculpture every time I ride past it on the Blue Line. It always looks different depending on the speed and direction of the wind, and the angle of sunlight shining on the different colored vanes.

The spinning wheels towards the top remind me of the spinning lights on the dance floor at the Limelight discotheque in Montreal in the 1970's. It was the first disco I ever went to!
         IMAGE(https://a1-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/88/99fe97733b864e5281f9d621161a6b4f/300x300.jpg)

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Probably not the best piece of art in East Boston. I'd give it to the monument to the convenience store owner that is at Paris and Bennington. Just a remarkably moving tribute.

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Too much graffiti on this list. I'm sorry, but not really art.

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How did st sizzurp get on the list?

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I would have added the statue of William LLoyd Garrison on the Comm Ave Mall. The did mention the Women's Memorial statue in the mall when talking about the Phyllis Wheatley plaque but did not seem to include the statue itself in the list.
Agree with those who stated too much graffiti on the list. Also, I'm not sure if plaques and markers can be considered art. Same goes for the freedom trail.

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At Taft Middle School in Brighton. Won for the hammer throw. Local boy made good. Great statue showing dynamism too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hal_Connolly#/media/File:Hammer_Throw,_Con...

Can someone please take pity on a Luddite and show the code for how to embed an image? :)

I spent an afternoon trying and failing. Couldn't follow Adam's instructions, which I'm sure we're fine but not dumbed down enough for me I guess.

Thanks.

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IMAGE(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/Hammer_Throw,_Connolly_Memorial.jpg)

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I'll figure that out one of these days.

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Thanks, Adam, for sharing my list, and to John Costello, Elmer, Ron, Steeve and others for the suggested additions/revisions. Especially love the suggestion for the Doug Bennett signs, Ishmael. ; )

I agree with Taho's take on the Irish Famine Memorial. If we're going to memorialize the Famine, the tragedy really deserves something better to remember it by. As an aside, I'd note that there's an even worse famine memorial on Cambridge Common.

Re: Connolly statue, I think that most of the sports monuments here (except for a couple murals) are pretty lousy--I mean, just poor design and craft. Hope some day to publish a ranking of the worst sports-related public art in Boston.

Re: Graffiti: While I appreciate the complaints about graffiti as vandalism (yes, it frequently is), there's no doubt that it's art (including shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art, in Dewey Square by the Greenway Conservancy, and commissioned by Northeastern University, to name a few examples). And some of it very good art. Including the graffiti wall in Cambridge's Central Square.

Re: New England Holocaust Memorial: The designer being an architect does't preclude that it's good art. Being an artist is about what you produce, not your pedigree. Some (like The Boston Globe) have said things like: "The Holocaust and taste obviously have nothing to do with one another, but memorials and taste do, and this one seems to me to fail on that front. The Holocaust is beyond such pretending, beyond theater." I like theatrical art. I like art that's emotional. I find this theatrical monument in particular deeply moving. And I'm moved by how people have embraced it--leaving stones and so on.

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... is the Cocoanut Grove Fire Memorial.

(Because we still don't have one, 74 years after the event.)

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Re: Graffiti: While I appreciate the complaints about graffiti as vandalism (yes, it frequently is), there's no doubt that it's art (including shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art, in Dewey Square by the Greenway Conservancy, and commissioned by Northeastern University, to name a few examples).

I guess if you're redefining "graffiti" to include that which is done in spaces that the artist has permission to use, then you can make that case. In all other cases, no, it is not art. Consent matters.

(edit: by the way, I love the large majority of this list and am really grateful to you for putting it together. I found some pieces of public art that I know and love, and others I didn't know about but will now be seeking out. So, thanks!)

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Thanks for the interest in the list.

Re: Graffiti: I think we'll have to just disagree. <3

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the U bench at the pond is a fun little thing but doesn't seem like it should be on a list of top 10 public art in the city.

It's just a 'hey, that's fun' level piece.

IMO, YMMV, etc...

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Graffiti is art. It was art long before Banksy came along. It's just that the proper artists have never gotten the credit for it. Open your mind.

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