Urban Art Projects’ Co-Founder on the Importance of Making Art Accessible

Urban Art Projects (UAP) began life over 25 years ago as a platform to introduce artworks into public spaces.

Founded by brothers Daniel and Matthew Tobin – both artists themselves – UAP now has studios in New York and Shanghai, as well as its native Brisbane, and has executed commissions of large-scale public installations around the world in partnership with leading artists, architects and designers.

Urban Art Projects co-founder Daniel Tobin

We caught up with Daniel to discuss the evolution of UAP and explore why collaboration is key to creativity.

Tow Row, by Judy Watson

Most of UAP’s work engages with people through the public realm. Within our ever-growing cities, public spaces challenge design teams to think differently how to design new communal areas in which communities meet to have a coffee, walk to work or relax in the park.

Creative people exist in every facet of society; challenging the status quo, agitating for change and delivering the unexpected. Artists, designers and architects have practices that intersect so they are destined to work together. 

Wahat al Karama was built to honour the UAE Armed Forces

We love the challenge of working with other creatives on projects large and small. To deliver the very best outcomes you need to interrogate the brief, engage in a discussion, and problem-solve throughout the design-build process. Complex projects cannot be realised without an inclusive and collaborative approach, and ideally at the other end we all celebrate the fantastic outcome.

Kraken, by Florentijn Hofman

Art absolutely has a civic role to play in society – imagine New York without the Statue of Liberty, Chicago without Cloud Gate or Hong Kong’s harbour without Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck (albeit for a moment). Public art can symbolise a culture, re-invent a city, or inspire mass celebration. Hofman’s whimsical take on a child’s bath toy appeared joyfully bobbing on the world’s waterways and connected with millions of people worldwide. Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate rebranded Chicago and was a catalyst for economic growth and urban renewal. Artist JR, who plasters oversized graphic black and white images throughout world cities, connects with and confronts local and international communities alike. Art and artists play an ever-increasing and important role in making our cities habitable.

Shanghai is fast becoming one of Asia’s leading creative hubs. There are numerous galleries scattered throughout the city showing the very best of local and international artists along with private collectors and foundations whose starchitect-designed spaces are programmed with challenging and thought-provoking shows. With Dreamworks Animation Studio investing 2.5 billion and Centre Pompidou recently announcing a branch at West Bund, it’s hard not to argue that Shanghai is leading the way.

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A version of this article originally appeared in our August 2017 issue. 

Photography: Jonathan Gainer Surface Photography. All images courtesy of Urban Art Projects