12 spectacular public artworks that brightened up our cities

1. ‘Tierra’ by SpY

Madrid, Spain

Photo: Ruben P Bescos

This glowing red orb appeared in the centre of Madrid earlier this year.

SpY was one of many artists who tackled the climate crisis in 2021, and in this caged installation, it’s fair to say he made his point loud and clear.

2. ‘Remember Me’ by Reko Rennie


Photo: Reko Rennie / Zan Wimberley

This text-based installation by Aboriginal artist Reko Rennie commemorates the impact of the first landing of the British at Botany Bay.

Now a pretty big industry name, Rennie was once a graffiti artist, so there’s something very full-circle about this bright, confident public artwork.

3. ‘L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped’ by Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Paris, France

Photo: Lubri, courtesy of Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude drew up the plans for their fabric-covered monument in the 1960s, but it wasn’t actually realised (posthumously) until this year.

As you can imagine, it caused quite a stir in the tradition-loving French capital.

4. ‘Tomorrow Land’ by Studio Proba x Enjoy The Weather

Miami, USA

Photo: Studio Proba / Kris Tamburello

This year, the neighbourhood around the Design Miami art fair was transformed into a ‘digital playground’ of squidgy, pastel-hued, AI-designed ornaments.

And yes, they could actually be played on. Very cool.

5. ‘ANGST’ by Jakob Jakobsen

Køge, Denmark

Photo: Jakob Jakobsen

We all had pretty good reason to be angsty in 2021. So here’s a huge, screaming bit of introspection painted in giant yellow letters in a concrete rotunda.

It’s honest and tragic and we love it.

6. ‘Ghost Forest’ by Maya Lin

New York, USA

Photo: Andy Romer

This eerie pop-up forest – made up of 45-foot Atlantic white cedars – appeared in NYC’s Madison Square Park earlier this year.

For a brief period, the woodland became a sombre, peaceful place for meditation, right in the middle of the city.

7. ‘Invocation for Hope’ by Superflux

Vienna, Austria

Photo: Stefan Lux

More trees, this time in an even more blackened state. These spindly dead trunks are the remains of an Austrian forest fire, hauled by horses to Vienna to create a woodland graveyard.

After the exhibition, aptly, the remains were turned into compost.

8. ‘Lumpy Notes’ by CHIAOZZA

Boston, USA


These curvy, tactile lumps appeared in a plaza at Northeastern University in Boston, inviting people to clamber over them on their way from one neighbourhood to another.

We reckon it’s probably the most fun you can have on your way to class.

9. ‘Little Amal’ by ​​the Handspring Puppet Company

Multiple locations

Photo: Teatro Pubblico Pugliese

The 3.5-metre-tall puppet was carried 8,000km from the Turkey-Syria border all the way to Manchester earlier this year.

While in London, she held her tenth birthday party at the V&A museum, met dance troupes in Trafalgar Square and even hosted a concert.

10. ‘The future is fragile, handle with care’ by Agnes Denes

Venice, Italy

Photo: gnes Denes / Leslie Tonkonow

Agnes Denes has been making art about the environment for decades (remember the two-acre wheatfield she planted by the New York’s Twin Towers in 1984?).

To coincide with COP26 this year, she raised a flag from a tiny boat in Venice that read: ‘​The future is fragile, handle with care’.

11. ‘Future Mickey Mouse’ by Hajime Sorayama

Tokyo, Japan

Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa

Sure, it might not be to everyone’s taste, but this gold Mickey certainly brightened up the street outside Tokyo shopping centre Parco.

Just take a look on Instagram: a whole load of people went wild for it.

12. ‘Outdoor Living’ by Atong Atem

Melbourne, Australia

Photo: Courtesy the artist and MARS Gallery

Atong Atem has done all sorts of great stuff over the years: photography, collages, mixed-media works.

Her latest installation is a marriage of 1970s interior aesthetics and neon tulips on the side of Melbourne’s STH BNK building.

Reinvigorating a boring old skyscraper with art? Yes please.

Sophie Dickinson

Interim Travel Writer on Time Out's international team.

Sophie Dickinson is an Interim Travel Writer on Time Out's international team. She's especially interested in writing about weird culture, delicious food, strange buildings, and the best things to do around the world.

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