Art Prize and more Art Prize

The initial buzz has indeed increased to a low roar as artists, gallerists, curators and more join the discussion about Art Prize GR. It will be interesting to see this whole event unfold: good, bad or otherwise. Frustration is already growing as artists and venue hosts are realizing that there is a lack of clarity with exactly how this is all going to work! Is the one piece the artist enters simply representative of what the venue can expect or is the one piece the only piece the artist will be allowed to show? Does the artist contact the venue or does the venue contact the artist? How should this be done? Why should this be done? ? ? ? ?

Then there is the enormous issue of the public vote. This alone is a deterrent for a good number of artists. If one works conceptually is it possible for a literalist, conservative public to consider their work? While there is a burgeoning art community in Grand Rapids, I find it hard to believe that the best work will stand a chance-the “prettiest” may end up ruling the day. Is this what they want? Or are they trying to rebel against the artistic establishment and is this really an un-prize?? A way to promote the lowest common denominator in taste??

Another issue arises with the idea of a community vote-what if you aren’t located in a high traffic area? Works that are placed centrally, in high profile locations will have the upper hand in voting just by proximity! OH, and don’t get me started on padding the ballot box with the popularity vote. Know a lot of folks equates with more votes. In this “American Idol” for art is it possible, really, for the most deserving to succeed?

OK, that is all the ranting I will do for now BUT there are some issues with how this is organized.   AND… a little bee buzzed in my ear that one of the top painters out there has already dissed Art Prize due to the public vote……

Something to think about!

This being said-I hope they can overcome some of the problems they have created for themselves and pull off a cool event.


2 Replies to “Art Prize and more Art Prize”

  1. Susan,

    You’ve raised some good concerns here, I’m happy to see the discussion around the event picking up steam. My role with ArtPrize is helping artists get involved, so I’ll throw in my two cents about the issues you’ve raised.

    As to the question of how this is all supposed to work, artists should think of the profiles they create during registration as an open-ended proposal. Include any information, text, and images you’d normally use to impress a curator or jury. That profile will be what venues are able to look at as they search for which artists they’d like to show. I know what you’re thinking, impressing a curator is very different from impressing the owner of a laundromat who has decided to make his space a venue. This is true, but it’s important to keep in mind that our biggest flagship venues are be managed by art and educational institutions with decades of international curatorial experience.

    ArtPrize is not an “un-prize” in any way. It’s not a referendum on the practices of the established art world. Rather, it’s a chance for those practices to find a new context and reach a new audience. The vote, more than anything, is a way to engage the public. People who really hate contemporary art still won’t come, but for those on the fence, being told that their opinion matters is a great way to engage them, and hopefully expand their idea of what art can be. A lot of the best art exists within a constantly evolving historical context. We’re hoping ArtPrize engages the public in a way that lets artists, critics, and curators communicate what that context is, and how specific work functions within it. To encourage this, we’re going to be scheduling and tracking events within the event: gallery talks, slide lectures, critics’ talks, engagements with local universities, and anything else people can think of to foster dialog.

    Could this just be a way to promote the lowest common denominator in taste? I suppose anything is possible when you open it up to a public vote (which is part of what makes this whole thing so interesting). But I wouldn’t be so quick to write off the citizens of Grand Rapids as unlearned brutes. La Grand Vitesse, the Calder stabile appropriated in our logo, was the first project of its kind funded by the NEA in 1969. In 1973 Grand Rapids hosted Sculpture Off the Pedestal, a city-wide exhibition of internationally renowned sculptors of the day, including Robert Morris and Mark di Suvero. We just opened the world’s first LEED certified art museum. West Michigan is the home of Herman Miller and a world renowned center for furniture design. There are countless artists and art students, a thriving independent music scene, and frequent gallery hops where the streets are literally clogged with people. I could go on and on.

    The point is that we know this is weird. We know it’s an experiment. We want to start a dialog and a debate, it’s healthy. If you think contemporary art needs to stay in the white-walled safety of its institutions, that’s fine. Now is the time to make your argument.

    1. Hi!
      Thank you for taking the time to reply! Your response addressed some deep concerns, not all necessarily my own. I have listened to a lot of artists and while they are almost 100% behind Art Prize there are some ligitimate concerns and I believe you may have addressed a few here.
      I agree totally with your assertion regarding the significant contribution GR has made in the area of art and design-this is an undisputable fact! I will also agree that the GRAM is, hands down, one of the finest art institutions currently out there. I have now doubt that GR has the potential to have a genuine impact in the greater art world with Art Prize. It may not sound like it, but I am a fan of what, I believe, you hope to accomplish here. I think I have been acting as more of a devil’s advocate and simply putting out there what is being tossed around.
      As per the “brute” factor, the preponderance of lighthouses and windmills in the area definitely deny any brute-like tendencies; plus, I would never suggest there is a brutishness about GR. There is a great population of well educated, involved and interested individuals out there-BUT, I would question the validity of any public vote in any city if the goal was to promote authentic contemporary art. Untrained eyes are less objective and the presence of a curatorial capacity to limit the choice available to the public might serve to support the arts. For example, if there were curators who were to narrow down the choices (which in this format appear to be overwhelming) to a managable number, intially, for the public to choose from (a suggestion given to me by an art colleague today).
      Anyway-as far as weird?? No way, Art Prize is a boost either way-whether it is for the artist or for the public. I think there is room for the white cube crowd AND for the more unstructured within the parameters of Art Prize.

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