Recommended by Jacqueline Mézec (Honorary Secretary, Jersey Arts Centre Association)

  • MONUMENT TO THE UNKNOWN BUREAUCRAT
  • Magnús Tómasson, 1994
  • Sculpture, Reykjavik

Located by a walkway over Tjörnin lake to Reykjavik’s City Hall, as if he is on his way to work there, the unknown bureaucrat carries a briefcase and wears a suit but is literally faceless as what should be the upper part of his body is unsculpted Icelandic volcanic basalt. The meaning of the piece is open to interpretation – is he a block head, a faceless bureaucrat,  an anonymous civil servant, an unsung white-collar worker, one of the unseen army who keeps society ticking along, carrying a heavy burden? It is a playful piece in a perfect location, in a city which features lots of public art by local artists, giving Reykjavik a sense of place, part of a unique Icelandic identity.

What is public art? Is a statue of a famous person art? Where do statues sit in relation to history? What is the impact of “he who pays the artist”? What wider types of public art are possible? How important are local identity and local artists in public art? What role does a memorial play in society? Jersey had a Public Art Strategy – what happened to it and should we revisit it? Now seems to be an opportune time…