1st Edition

The Failures of Public Art and Participation

Edited By Cameron Cartiere, Anthony Schrag Copyright 2023
    318 Pages 46 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    318 Pages 46 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    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.



    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






    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.