sun god
A standard lament in the visual arts community is that San Diego is fated to be a perpetual Jersey-on-the-Pacific, with art remaining the odd duck out in a region known for its theatre and physical culture.

The artists tend to blame this on the weather, without considering that the problem may be their art. San Diego has beautiful light, and people are outdoors enjoying it. For art to be an integral part of the regional culture, it needs to follow the people outdoors.

To a remarkable extent this has already occurred: art’s outside in San Diego, thanks to community action, private foundations, and city art programs.

But the region also has a history of civic controversies over public art: several high-profile proposals have crashed and burned, and in a few cases installed work was removed. Sometimes the fault seemed to lie as much with the artist as the unhappy public. Artists and audience alike need to learn: good art is hard, good public art harder.

And even the controversy itself needs to be put into perspective: about the proposed Statue of Liberty, the New York Times opined that “no true patriot can countenance any such expenditures for bronze females in the present state of our finances.” Parisians hated the Eiffel Tower. Veterans hated the Vietnam Wall.

To date most media coverage of San Diego public art has been event-driven, focused on proposals, installations, and any ensuing controversies. What’s been missing is a directory of public art: something that not only helps interested viewers find the community gems and learn more about them, but also shows just how much good public art there already is. This book reviews selected works from around the region, with the criterion for inclusion being that the work be worth the trip.

— From San Diego Public Art, a free ebook on

Sun God, Niki de Saint Phalle