It's Olympic year, and as the UK gears up for the 'ultimate national well-being campaign' and we invest millions of pounds in sports and culture, we are constantly told that the arts are a force for good, nurturing civic pride and engendering happiness. But is the drive for happiness in danger of skewing our understanding of well-being, and whilst we lavish money on the Olympics in a time of global austerity, some of us question the prescription of culture for happiness - aren't the arts more than that? And if they offer something more than a quick-hit, how is it that the quality of life of our older citizens is often institutionally neglected; worse still, those affected by dementia are relegated to 'warehouses of the dying'? This essay explores the relationship between art in the public realm and well-being. Clive Parkinson investigates public art's sometimes superficiality and its occasional potential to question societal norms, with blistering potency.