The Use and Social Enjoyment of Murals: ‘the people’s art’, its publics and cultural heritage

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The relationship of murals to public space and the built environment makes them relevant to a more diverse range of audiences than gallery-based art-forms, but presents particular challenges around the use, management and maintenance of artworks whose ownership and accessibility can be complex, whose content or location may be politically sensitive, and whose inscription in the very fabric of cities leaves them vulnerable to all the flux and contestation of everyday civic life. Whether originally created as private commissions, public art or ephemeral political statements, and whether interior or exterior, murals’ survival is contingent on wider processes in the built environment as well as changing perceptions of their style and content. The audience for murals today includes the cultural tourists so desired by urban and regional policy-makers around the world. Competition for tourist attention has led to the reassessment of previously overlooked or controversial murals as heritage artefacts. Tourism and communications technology mean that the publics addressed by murals are now international. However, due to the site-specific nature of murals, whether they are located in a public building or a city street, they inevitably say something about the people of that place, addressing an ‘imagined community’ (Andersen 1991) of citizens or residents. When located in public buildings or outdoor space, murals form a visual platform for the circulation of ideas through the ‘public sphere’ (Habermas 1991: see also Greeley 2012: 3). They can therefore function as tools for nation- or solidarity-building and become a focus of debate about the nature of the public they address, engaging audiences in reflection on intra- and inter-communal relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConservation, Tourism, and Identity of Contemporary Community Art
Subtitle of host publicationA Case Study of Felipe Seade’s Mural “Allegory to Work”
EditorsVirginia Santamarina Campos, Maria Angeles Carabal Montagud, Maria de Miguel Molina, Blanca de-Miguel-Molina
PublisherCRC Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781315209586
ISBN (Print)9781771884013
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2017


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