A teenager skateboards in front of Taichi Single Whip (1985) by Ju Ming, which is installed in Victoria Square, as a child imitates the sculpture’s pose in the background, to the left.
© Denise Caron


Workers sit and picnic on the low wall surrounding the Monument to Queen Victoria (1869) by Marshall Wood, in Victoria Square.
© Denise Caron

Pedestrians walk by the Monument to Louis-Octave Crémazie (1906), by Louis-Philippe Hébert, in St. Louis Square.
© Denise Caron

Tamtam, the popular musical gathering, takes place on Sunday afternoons around the Monument to George-Étienne Cartier (1919), by George William Hill, in Mount Royal Park.
© Thibaut Larquey


The Social Life of Artworks in Public Spaces: Case Studies in Montreal

What types of relationships do users of urban public spaces have with artworks installed in those spaces? How can we describe the relations that these individuals have with these objects and the uses that they make of them?

This research project looks at publics for artworks in public spaces; these publics have rarely been the subject of empirical study. The definition of public spaces is grounded in urban sociology, in order to open new theoretical and empirical perspectives on this question. More specifically, publics are analyzed with an eye to public sociability – the weak and ephemeral interactions that take place among strangers in a public space.

The research method implemented for this project is filmed observation, inspired by the documentary film The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1988) by sociologist and urbanist William H. Whyte. This method was used to document and analyze the relationships that publics have with different types of artworks (monuments, busts, abstract and figurative sculptures, installations) that are installed in certain public spaces in Montreal (Victoria Square, Saint-Louis Square, Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle, Mount Royal Park, and Parc Jean-Drapeau).

Areas of specialization

› Art in public spaces: monuments, public art, interventions

› Public spaces and public sociability; urban and pragmatic sociology

› Sociological approaches to art and publics

› Qualitative methods; filmed observation