The term public art refers to art that is in the public realm, regardless of whether it is situated on public or private property or whether it has been purchased with public or private money

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  • Cai Guo-Qiang, 'Mr Ye Who Loves Dragon' 2003
    Cai Guo-Qiang
    Mr Ye Who Loves Dragon 2003
    Gunpowder on paper
    support: 4000 x 6000 mm
    Presented by Billstone Foundation in honour of the artist 2005© Cai Studio
  • Claes Oldenburg, 'Lipsticks in Piccadilly Circus, London' 1966
    Claes Oldenburg
    Lipsticks in Piccadilly Circus, London 1966
    Mixed media on board
    unconfirmed: 254 x 203 mm
    Presented by Hannah Wilke 1972© Claes Oldenburg
  • Antony Gormley, 'A Case for an Angel III' 1990
    Antony Gormley
    A Case for an Angel III 1990
    Lead sheet, fibreglass, plaster and steel
    unconfirmed: 1970 x 5260 x 350 mm
    Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery and Edwin C. Cohen 1995© Antony Gormley

Usually, but not always, public art is commissioned specifically for the site in which it is situated. Monuments, memorials, and civic statues and sculptures are the most established forms of public art, but public art can also be transitory, in the form of performances, dance, theatre, poetry, graffiti, posters and installations.

Public art can often be used as a political tool, like the propaganda posters and statues of the Soviet Union or the murals painted by the Ulster Unionists in Northern Ireland. Public art can also be a form of civic protest, as in the graffiti sprayed on the side of the New York subway in the 1980s.