ArtPrize and its Discontents / Hyperallergic

Nick Jakubiak, “Tired Pandas” (2013) is on the top 10 list for this year’s public vote. (image via the Tired Pandas Kickstarter page)

Nick Jakubiak, “Tired Pandas” (2013) is on the top 10 list for this year’s public vote. (image via the Tired Pandas Kickstarter page)

CHICAGO — At surface value, ArtPrize is all giant flowers, mythical dragons, yarn-bombed trees, and cash galore. Begun in 2009, the annual event attracts thousands of visitors from Michigan and elsewhere, a strange combination of populism and art world elitism wrapped into one — but it is not an idealistic “coming together” of the two populations.

The public-vote awards $200,000 to the winner plus another $160,000 for the top 10. Affectionately and hatefully referred to as DragonPrize for the many representations of this mythic beast, ArtPrize engenders Tumbler blogs such as ArtPrizeWorst, among many online forums that offer pointed critique and just plain anger. With the addition of the juried prizes last year — which include a $100,000 prize and five more $20,000 juried awards in specific categories — there is still hope that good art can be found in ArtPrize, an experiment in distributing large sums of money from the ultra-rich and ultra-conservative DeVos family, who are regular donors to the Republican Party, brush shoulders with the Koch Brothers, and are notoriously against gay marriage.

Artists must pay a $50 entry fee to show work in ArtPrize. They must also ship their work to ArtPrize and, if they care about their work, they are encouraged to purchase their own insurance. The event is almost entirely volunteer-run, and venues must agree to stay open during ArtPrize hours during the extensive three-week run of this event. With the exception of Paul Amenta’s smartly curated SiTE:Lab and the public intervention of yarn bombing, the cacophony of visual stuff plastering the walls of Grand Rapids establishments made it nearly impossible to think straight about any one or two particular visual works.

read the full story on Hyperallergic: http://hyperallergic.com/86730/how-artprize-fails/