Riley's Bar and Snooker Hall, Cross Belgrave St, Leeds

This is the first time the three text works that form the Three Functions have been presented together.

We have been working on the Three Functions for over a year.We did not set out to make this a long-term project; in fact the first function felt like a culmination of a previous project rather than the beginning of a new one. The project began as the second phase of a commission for Public Art Forum’s (now ixia) annual conference in April 2003. The first part of the commission, a work called I won an artist in a raffle, was concerned with initiating a debate about the commissioning of public art; conference delegates were entered into a raffle in which they might win the opportunity to commission us to make a new work within their home or work place. The winner was Allia Ali, who after some discussion on how we might collaborate, said “just make a work for me, you can make what you like”. We went on to write and display The Economic Function of Public Art. The text became a billboard poster, sited in Sheffield, and a contribution to the book Desirable Places: The Contribution of Artists to Creating Spaces for Public Life. The subject of the Three Functions is public art. The aim of the work is to examine the tensions and contradictions that exist within public art practice; to explore how public art is integral to our culture and therefore how it functions in support of the dominant ideology. In order to reveal the hegemony within culture, we chose to describe how public art functions in the broadest of cultural contexts: economic, social and aesthetic. The Three Functions state - in the direct and reductive manner of a one line slogan - ideas of public and private, social responsibility and expected good behaviour as well as divisive forms of knowledge, like taste. The Three Functions attempt to initiate a discourse around how art maintains cultural division.

Leeds City Art Gallery

Merrion Centre, Merrion Street, Leeds

For Vitrine, the Three Functions are three posters that exist both within this book and as a series of window displays in Leeds city centre.

The great thing about text works is that they are easy and cheap to reproduce. They can also take many forms, use a range of media and they can exist almost anywhere. We would like the posters in this publication to be removed and used; for us, the more often the texts are distributed, copied and discussed the better.

A major contribution to this work is the essay Sloganeering by artist Dave Beech, in which he asks the question, most cogently, “Public art exists. What does it do?” We would especially like to thank Dave for his collaboration on the development of the Three Functions project.

The Three Functions are:
The economic function of public art is to increase the value of private property.
The social function of public art is to subject us to civic behaviour.
The aesthetic function of public art is to codify social
distinctions as natural ones. *

Andy Hewitt and Mel Jordan

The Three Functions poster publication including the three posters and Dave Beech's essay was printed in an edition of 500. It is available from for £5.00 plus postage.

Sloganeering by Dave Beech (download pdf, 60kb)

Click on an image to download a pdf of the poster

* The Aesthetic Function of Public Art is in collaboration with Dave Beech

Vitrine is an 18-month curatorial project for Leeds by Pippa Hale and Kerry Harker. From November 2004 to April 2006, they are staging a series of contemporary visual arts exhibitions in ‘vitrines’ (glass display cabinets) in public spaces around the city centre. The project aims to provide new exhibition and commission opportunities to artists based in the city and the region, to engage with siting art in non-gallery spaces and to explore the role of art in public space.

Three Functions has been commissioned by Vitrine and will be on show from 13th May - 8th July 2005. This will coincide with Situation Leeds: Contemporary Artists and the Public Realm, 16th - 29th May 2005.


© 2005 Hewitt & Jordan