Friday, September 20, 2019

ArtPrize Off Year

Copyright © Edward Riojas

What if somebody threw an ArtPrize and nobody cared?

That is becoming a valid question. The question most asked, however, is, “What is going on with ArtPrize this year?”

For those of you who don’t know, ArtPrize – now held every other year – is an art competition with a prize purse of half a million dollars. It draws thousands of local, national, and international artists, and thousands of entries come under scrutiny for both a public vote and a jurored vote. Hundreds of thousands of people descend on downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., for two and a half weeks beginning in mid-September. It used to be an annual event, then things started getting a little tired.

The powers-that-be decided the event should be a biennial thing, and the in-between years would be a different, but related, animal. Hence, the debut of this year’s Project 1. Technically, it isn’t ArtPrize. In spite of lots of media hype, a lot of folks are still asking, “What is going on with ArtPrize this year?”

I could be ornery and declare that I don’t know and I don’t care, but that is an oversimplification. What I do know is that I’m not alone in feeling drained from participating in ArtPrize. It takes a massive amount of energy to create something eye-catching and spectacular, and do so every year with little return on the time investment. I certainly don’t want ArtPrize to go away, but the break is a welcome relief.

This year’s Project 1, however, is not wholly a cause for celebration. While ArtPrize was once the darling of the Visual Arts – drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, and associated disciplines – the event has been slowly eroded by performing arts in the guise of the visual arts. Project 1 nearly ignores the visual arts, focusing instead on performing arts. Only a handful of commissioned pieces have been installed in public spaces this year.

Photos from Project 1 show a little art, lots of folks with microphones, and [I’m being generous here] modest crowds. I know I am sounding disgruntled, but I dare say folks will share my sentiments once they dig into the goings-on of this year’s event. Perhaps “pissed” will suit you better.

You see, Project 1, in its great wisdom, decided to showcase London-based Drag Syndrome, among other performances. Perhaps Project 1 wanted to display patronage of international “talent.” Perhaps they felt the need to educate the pedestrian public about “culture.” Perhaps simply showcasing the visual arts was not enough. But really, no one should be forced to think that a show of Down Syndrome drag queens is art! Unfortunately, now I know what’s going on with ArtPrize, and, yes, I care. Enough of this crap already! You’re 11 years old, ArtPrize – it’s time to grow up!

1 comment:

  1. Grow up is exactly what they aren't doing. Last year one of the "jurors" was still in art school!
    I told my wife when they introduced jurors to the Artprize equation it was equivalent to giving the general public the middle finger and it would be the downfall of Artprize.
    When they announce the juried top ten after the first week, guess where everybody goes? That's right. If your piece isn't near one of the top ten then good luck getting views.
    What people don't realize is that in the last few years Artprize extended artist registration clear into August to entice more artists. I know this because I checked the website and could still register. "Why?", you ask. Because artists realized the odds of their pieces getting seen got drastically eliminated according to their venue location.
    I signed on 7 times and got in 7 times, fortunately right downtown every time. But hundreds didn't. If you were as far north as Leonard street or west of the river very few people would see your work.
    I am saw to see Artprize go this way. I've heard no one say anything about making any effort to see the current exhibits. And If you want to win, make a social/political statement or hide your sexual interests in a pink house with red interior and young girls swinging in and out of its orifices.(windows)