Check out the great response/comment from Art Prize to an earlier post. I think they really answered a few questions and, perhaps, offered up a few more. (A note in my own defence: I never referred to the citizens of GR as “unlearned brutes”)
From Kevin Buist :
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.