Robert Tannen is an artist, urban planner and one of the founders of the Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans. He has been engaged in urban planning and urban design since 1965 throughout the nation and internationally with work in Iran, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Panama. During his career, Tannen has participated in major museum exhibitions, public art projects, festivals and expositions. He has directed large-scale transportation and redevelopment projects, bringing a public art perspective to the management of such projects. Since 1972, Tannen has created art based on the shotgun-house form—an intersection of architecture, sociology and geography—in both large and small in scale.
Tannen's work, throughout his career, has pushed beyond art and sculpture into architecture and urban planning. Described by Times-Picayune art critic Doug MacCash as "a playful practitioner of art at its purest," Tannen has designed bridges and modular housing, and once, with city permission, turned the monument at Lee Circle into a giant compass of sorts. Notably, Tannen’s art is not laboriously made.Everything is a sketch, finished just enough to provoke thought and conversation. Often his works contain whiffs of social commentary, but sometimes not. Born on Coney Island, N.Y., Tannen studied industrial design at the Pratt Institute, eventually moving to New Orleans in 1969. Like other artists of the era, Tannen experimented with nontraditional art-making materials—though few artists remained as endlessly experimental over the long haul.