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Art in the Smart City

MTArt Agency
Jul 8, 2016 · 3 min read

Contemporary research into smart cities tends to focus on technology, architecture and infrastructure. Recent developments in each of these fields find importance in both their ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ tangents.

Technology: not only progress in machinery, security and efficiency, but also in terms of knowledge, surveillance and accessibility.

Architecture: not just new, sustainable, ecological building sites, but also the importance of exterior and interior design and the impact it has on how we feel, think and live.

Infrastructure: the tangible city in which we live vs. the intangible one, in which we learn how to live.

Art is founded on this dichotomy, where the intangible finds meaning and expression in tangible works.

Bloomberg Associates advises emerging cities on how to create cultural hubs. The definition of these, much like a think tank, is to incorporate as many tangents, expertise and perspectives as possible. Mayor Michael Bloomberg wields art as a powerful tool, one integral to building the ‘confidence’ of a city. Here the city is personalised and the measure of success is drawn, once again, on resulting sentiment rather than material impulse or origin. In practical terms: Bloomberg sponsors public-art projects. In 2005, for example, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Central Park Gates drew 4 million visitors who, in turn, brought $254 million to the tourism industry. Since then, Bloomberg has directed a further $2.8 billion to cultural organisations. The sector now generates $21 million a year.

A spokesperson from the urban consultancy Umbrellium addresses the division: ‘Well, all these things make a city bearable, but they don’t make a city valuable’. What makes a city valuable, then? The difference here lies in experience. Value is both an immediate and a long-term notion, one based on sustainable, affirmative experience. Cities have a story and, like any brand, it is the immersive experience/ storytelling aspect that determines its success.

Baudelaire, the French nineteenth century intellectual and poet, seeking to map a city onto the pages of his works, proclaimed his conviction: walking is narrative. Walking through a city becomes like reading its story. London and Partners, labelled ‘London’s official promotional company’, defines their mission as to ‘tell London’s story brilliantly’. Importance lies in transcribing both personal and urban aspiration — they undeniably exist — but how do we make the most of them? How do we implement them within the cityscape?

This generation has learnt to rethink the city: regeneration becomes a way to reclaim abandoned or disregarded areas and provides alternative solutions to issues of overpopulation and extortionate real estate pricing. This creative rethinking finds many forms: public installations, street art, pop-ups, collectives, collaborations, sponsorship… These personal endeavours leave individuals with an increased sense of pride, belonging and worth regarding their city and, in turn, the public benefits from an increased sense of awareness and understanding.

Creativity is not only able to regenerate areas but also the mind. Personal experience becomes public knowledge and diversity is both incorporated and appreciated. Cities are competitive based on the quality of the people they attract and the cross pollination they enable. In Shakespeare’s Coriolanus one of the tribunes asks the crowd: ‘What is the city but the people?’ What better way, then, to acquire a better understanding of the citizen than through the universal language of art.

Undervaluing its importance is highly detrimental to cultural, financial and economic stability. A lack of successful communication causes absence of community and integration with drastic results — think Brexit. MTArt fights this miscommunication, enabling the practical implementation of collaboration, interaction and constant adjustment. The agency takes existing elements, brings them together, formalises them and, in doing so, increases their accessibility. A focus on bridging the gap between the public and the private sectors in the arts enables the reengagement, reassessment and resulting enhancement of the city experience. Maintaining and safeguarding the confidence of the people and the market ensures the upkeep of consumption, investment and thus advancement. Culture is aspirational, inspirational and sustainable. As governments are forced to cut budget, MTArt invests: in a moment of uncertainty we provide strength, stability and opportunity.


Culture is aspirational, inspirational and sustainable.

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