Less Than Perfect

Less Than Perfect


How do you define perfection? How can we learn from failures? Less Than Perfect explores these questions and asks how people in diverse times, places, and cultures have answered them.

The objects exhibited here span four continents and more than 2000 years. They come from three University of Michigan museums: the Kelsey Museum, the Museum of Art, and the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology. Each has the potential to tell many stories: of how, where, and when it was made; how it was used, discarded, repaired, or valued; and how it came to a particular university museum in Ann Arbor.

Drawing from among these stories, the exhibition is organized around three themes:

  • Failed Perfection presents objects that failed in production and explores how researchers use them to study ancient economy and technologies.
  • Deliberate Imperfection features beautiful and finely crafted objects whose makers purposely introduced asymmetries or other unexpected elements into their products—and considers why artists may choose to make imperfect things.
  • Repairing Perfection highlights artifacts that were repaired in antiquity and asks why and how individuals worked to restore usefulness and beauty to certain broken, worn out, or damaged objects.

Taken together, these themes invite us to ponder our own perspectives and encounters with perfection, imperfection, and failure and consider how people in other times and places have responded to these shared human experiences.