Fountains Failures Futures: The afterlives of public art

Fountains Failures Futures: The afterlives of public art

A free public symposium in Lund, Sweden, 28 & 29 September 2023.

More details and registration HERE

Research and discussion about public art frequently focuses on conditions of emergence and production for public works. Fountains Failures Futures starts at the other end – thinking about the afterlives of public art in relation to processes of decline, decay, acts of reparation and re-imagination, transformation, and change.

We are interested in questions of sustainability, custodianship, and whether “failed” public artworks can be revitalised and thought anew. What are the implications for their authorship and ownership, and what challenges does this present for commissioners, artists, architects, and urban planners? How can producers, owners and custodians of public artworks, and the communities living with these works, anticipate and accommodate complex afterlives of public art?


Forskning och diskussion kring offentlig konst fokuserar ofta på förutsättningar för uppkomst och produktion av offentliga verk. Fountains Failures Futures börjar i andra änden – genom att tänka på den offentliga konstens efterlevnad, i förhållande till processer av förfall, reparation, nyskapande, transformation och förändring.

Vi är intresserade av frågor rörande hållbarhet, vårdnad och om "misslyckade" offentliga konstverk kan åter vitaliseras och tänkas kring ånyo. Vilka implikationer har detta för konstnärligt författarskap och ägande, och vilka utmaningar innebär det för uppdragsgivare, konstnärer, arkitekter och stadsplanerare? Hur kan producenter, ägare och förvaltare av offentliga konstverk, och de samhällen som lever med dessa verk, förutse och hantera den offentliga konsten komplexa “livet efter detta”?


*Lisa Le Feuvre is a curator, writer, and editor. She is the inaugural Executive Director of Holt/Smithson Foundation, the artist-endowed foundation dedicated to the creative legacies of the artists Nancy Holt (1938-2014) and Robert Smithson (1938-73), which is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Between 2010 and 2017 Le Feuvre directed the Henry Moore Institute, a centre for the study of sculpture. She has written extensively on the idea of failure as a productive force and was editor for the Documents of Contemporary Art edition titled Failure (2010). Following her talk, Lisa will be in conversation with Jonatan Habib Engqvist – independent curator, writer and current editor of Swedish cultural magazine Ord&Bild.

*Jes Fernie is an independent curator, writer, and lecturer. Many of her projects are situated in the public realm beyond gallery walls. She writes and lectures extensively and has worked with a broad range of organisations including Tate, Serpentine Gallery, Turf Projects, Ikon Gallery, Manchester International Festival, Flat Time House, Firstsite, Skissernas Museum, Lund Cathedral, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Royal College of Art. In 2021 she launched the Archive of Destruction, a research project that brings together narratives around public sculpture that have been destroyed by rage, boredom, fear, greed and love. Following her talk, Jes will be in conversation with Feras Hammami – researcher, writer and Senior Lecturer in Critical Heritage Studies at University of Gothenburg.

*Dan Karlholm is a writer, art historian and Professor of Art History at Södertörn University in Stockholm. His research is on the theory and historiography of art, temporality, museum studies and effects of the Anthropocene. His latest books are Time in the History of Art: Temporality, Chronology, and Anachrony edited with Keith Moxey (2018), and Ekologisk konstvetenskap, edited with Anna-Maria Hällgren (forthcoming 2023). Dan was Editor-in-chief of Konsthistorisk tidskrift/Journal of Art History 2009–2019. Following his talk, Dan will be in conversation with Ingo Vetter – artist and Professor of Sculpture at the University of the Arts Bremen.

*Patrick Amsellem is Director of the Public Art Agency Sweden. He was previously Director of Skissernas Museum – Museum of Artistic Process and Public Art in Lund, and Associate Curator of Photography at the Brooklyn Museum, New York. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in art history and architectural history from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. His research has focused on memory culture, memorials, and monuments after World War II. Following his talk, Patrick will be in conversation with Mattias Kärrholm – writer, researcher and Professor of Architectural Theory at the Department of Architecture and Built Environment, Lund University.


In the last decade revision and contestation of historic monuments and memorials have gained global momentum. One of the aims of Fountains Failures Futures is to explore how these tensions can be related to other, seemingly benign, artistic objects situated in public spaces such as city squares, urban parks, redeveloped waterfronts and university campuses. These artworks are frequently commissioned without public consultation and with intentions of permanence or longevity.

Twelve different case studies were selected from an international open call and offer an intriguing range of public artworks and narratives on their afterlives.

Alex Hale & Gina Wall (Scotland); Anahi Alviso Marino (France); Ana Cristina Pansera de Araujo (Brazil/Argentina); Åsa Stjerna (Sweden); Carla Cruz (Portugal); doris duhennois (UK); Gabriela Saenger Silva (Brazil/UK); Hans van Houwelingen, Jack Engelbracht & Bram Kuypers (Netherlands); James Carey (Australia); Jason E. Bowman (UK/Sweden); Jenny Perlin (USA/Norway); Louise Rollman (Australia).


Under det senaste decenniet har revidering och bestridande av historiska monument och minnesmärken fått globalt genomslag. Ett av syftena med Fountains Failures Futures är att utforska hur dessa spänningar kan relateras till andra, till synes godartade, konstnärliga föremål placerade på offentliga platser som stadstorg, stadsparker, ombyggda strandområden och universitetscampus. Dessa konstverk beställs ofta utan offentligt samråd och med avsikt att vara långvariga eller bestående.

Tolv olika fallstudier har valts ut, efter en internationellt utlyst “open call” och erbjuder ett spännande urval av offentliga konstverk och berättelser kring deras efterliv.

Alex Hale & Gina Wall (Skottland); Anahi Alviso Marino (Frankrike); Ana Cristina Pansera de Araujo (Brasilien/Argentina); Åsa Stjerna (Sverige); Carla Cruz (Portugal); doris duhennois (Storbritannien); Gabriela Saenger Silva (Brasilien/Storbritannien); Hans van Houwelingen, Jack Engelbracht & Bram Kuypers (Nederländerna); James Carey (Australien); Jason E. Bowman (Storbritannien/Sverige); Jenny Perlin (USA/Norge); Louise Rollman (Australien).

This public event is made possible with funding from Formas: A Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development.

Project partners

  • HDK-Valand Academy of Art and Design at University of Gothenburg
  • Faculty of Engineering (LTH), Lund University
  • Skissernas Museum–Museum of Artistic Process and Public Art, Lund University

Banner image: LTH-fontänen / LTH Fountain, Faculty of Engineering at Lund University, 1974. Unattributed. Public domain /Alvin Arkiv.