The Failures of Public Art and Participation  book cover
1st Edition

The Failures of Public Art and Participation

ISBN 9780367751814
Published August 25, 2022 by Routledge
318 Pages 46 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This collection of original essays takes a multi-disciplinary approach to explore the theme of failure through the broad spectrum of public art and social practice.

The anthology brings together practicing artists, curators, activists, art writers, administrators, planners, and educators from around the world to offer differing perspectives on the many facets of failure in commissioning, planning, producing, evaluating, and engaging communities in the continually evolving field of art in the public realm. As such, this book offers a survey of currently unexplored and interconnected thinking, and provides a much-needed critical voice to the commissioning of public and participatory arts. The volume includes case studies from the UK, the US, China, Cuba, and Denmark, as well as discussions of digital public art collections.

The Failures of Public Art and Participation will be of interest for students and scholars of visual arts, design and architecture interested in how art in the public realm fits within social and political contexts.

Table of Contents



List of illustrations


List of contributors



Cameron Cartiere and Anthony Schrag


Part 1

Failure of the Process

  1. Failure of Process: considering permanent works in an impermanent time
  2. Cameron Cartiere


  3. Failure as Success: Sam Durant’s Scaffold, Angela Two Stars’ Okciyapi, and the conundrum of critique.
  4. Erika Doss


  5. On Monumental Failure: A conversation
  6. Paul Farber and Kanyinsola Anifowoshe

  7. Failing Well: Exploring the value of failure through the UK national roll out of Arts on Prescription
  8. Frances Williams

  9. There’s always a story: Epic failings of the American percent-for-art model
  10. Shelly Willis and Janet Zweig


  11. Taking Inventory: digital public art collections and the challenge of physical distance
  12. Lori Goldstein

  13. Running across subsidence, following leaks: The ordinary failure of public art and public infrastructure services
  14. Becky Shaw

    Part 2

    Failure of Participation

  15. The Failure of Participation: the demos is in the detail
  16. Anthony Schrag


  17. We Thought We Were Going To Change The World! Socially engaged art as cruel optimism
  18. Sophie Hope


  19. Tarde de Sándwiches: The failure of participation in contemporary Cuban art
  20. Celia Irina González Álvarez


  21. How Intimate Public and Participatory Art Fails the City
  22. Leon Tan


  23. No impact on cultural participation? - An analysis of the objective of increasing and widening cultural participation in European Capital of Culture Aarhus 2017
  24. Louise Ejgod Hansen and Hans-Peter Degn


  25. Public Art Ethics and Failure: A postcolonial perspective on failure and the Centre for Political Beauty
  26. Anika Marschall


  27. Dare to Fail: socially engaged public art and its challenges in contemporary China
  28. Meiqin Wang


  29. Epilogue: Reconsidering failure

Harriet Senie





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Cameron Cartiere is a Professor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design (Vancouver, Canada). She is the author of RE/Placing Public Art, co-author of The Manifesto of Possibilities, and co-editor of The Practice of Public Art (with Shelly Willis), The Everyday Practice of Public Art (with Martin Zebracki), and The Routledge Companion to Art in the Public Realm (with Leon Tan)

Anthony Schrag is Senior Lecturer in Cultural Policy and Arts Management at Queen Margaret University (Edinburgh, Scotland). He is an artist and researcher and the central focus of his work examines the role of art in participatory and public contexts, with a specific focus on social conflict, agonism and ethics. He has published numerous papers and produced social practice projects both nationally and internationally.