In this paper I focus on the controversy of permanent public art as well as its possible benefits. There was a strong advocacy for permanent public art from the 60s to 80s. From the mid-80s the critical writings target unfulfilled hopes for social change that permanent public art was expected to generate and controversial role in urban regeneration. Since the 90s, the importance of community-based art and temporal interventions have been emphasized. New genre public art is seen as the way of social change; to be truly “for people” and “from people”. It is more independent of the political, economic and cultural powers and underpins the democratic values. The often mentioned polarities of “permanent – temporal” public art are followed with determinations as “instrument of power – critical to the power structures”, “object-oriented – public concerned”. Considering specific historical context of the Czech Republic, the lack of any kind of official support has significantly influenced the post-communist development in this area. The role of public art is not yet established. Among political and economic actors there is little awareness for professional questions and clear awareness of benefits. From the perspective of built environment, I trace four functions of public art and its potential in cultivation of public space.