The ‘Expo’ and the Post-‘Expo’. The Role of Public Art in Urban Regeneration Processes at the Late 20th Century

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Rita Ochoa

Subject: Arts & Humanities, Anthropology & Ethnography Keywords: public art; Lisbon; Expo’98; urban regeneration; waterfront areas

In 1998, the Lisbon Universal Exhibition – Expo'98 – led to an urban regeneration process on Lisbon’s waterfront. Following other cities, this event was a pretext to replace a depressed area and to re-connect it with the river, through the creation of a set of new spaces for common use along the water. For them, it was promoted a public art program, which can be considered quite innovative in the Portuguese context, and that resulted in a monumentalisation of Lisbon’s eastern riverfront, later extended to other areas. Behind this framework, this article aims to debate the relations between public art and the dynamics of urban regeneration at the end of the 20th century. For that, it will analyse: 1) the Expo'98’s public art program, comparing its initial assumptions with the final results; 2) the impact of this program, through the identification of public art’s placements before (1974-1998) and after (1999-2009) the event. As a result, it is possible to find that the placement of public art reveals the spaces that were "conquered" to the port system, and a dialectic between functional/economic and leisure/symbolic values. It is concluded that public art had a significant role in the urban processes of the late 20th century, which is quite evident in a discourse that considers it as a qualifying factor of urban space and a mean of economic and social development.

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