ArtPrize Recalibrates: A New $100,000 Juried Award and Other Changes Ahead

by Paddy Johnson on December 6, 2011 Newswire

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s Turner Prize announcement (Martin Boyce won), ArtPrize made public today a new, $100,000 dollar juried awardBased in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the contest touts itself as the first “radically open, international art competition and social experiment”. Anyone artist can enter, and both the city and judges votes on art installed across the city. The citizens of Grand Rapids and beyond determine who wins $350,000 worth of prizes come 2012, including a grand prize worth $250,000. The juried prizes now total $200,000 and in addition to the $100,000 grand prize includes the following categories; Two-Dimensional, Three-Dimensional, Time and Performance, Urban Space, Venue.

Upon tweeting the news earlier this morning, artist William Powhida promptly asked whether this was “A tacit acknowledgment that popularity isn’t always the best judge of art?” Similarly, Two Coats of Paint suggested that “submissions and prestige will suffer if the prizes go to schlocky pieces every year.”

Not surprisingly, Art Prize has a different take on the matter. “It's a tweak to acknowledge that there's a tension between the populist kind of art and the professional that's the secret sauce,” ArtPrize’s Artist Relations Director Kevin Buist told me over the phone. As ArtPrize sees it, the program isn’t just about inviting the city to vote for the art they like, but using the event to create “a more informed viewing audience”.

To this end, the organization will increase the length of voting time in their first round from 8 days to 11. Participants will have a longer amount of time to see all the work and discuss it amongst their friends. ArtPrize will also invite curators from institutions outside the city to produce shows in the parks of Grand Rapids, though this move is also strategic: affiliations with other major institutions will help the prize secure future funding.

Perhaps the most interesting of the changes in store is launch date of the two minute shorts by jurors identifying work they liked and explaining why. Launched in 2011, the videos were extremely popular, but were launched after the first round of voting, and thus had no effect. As Buist explained to me over the phone, it was the public that requested an earlier release date: “They wanted more critical rigor.”

But how will this effect the results, if at all? “It's an open and chaotic process. We don't really know,” Buist told me sheepishly, acknowledging that bombast is part of the ArtPrize brand. Of course, since all the voting happens online, so too is the Internet. As with countless other conversations I’ve had with those within the organization, Buist concluded by telling me, “It will be fun to watch the data.”

Related: Yesterday West Collects launched an iphone app in which people vote to determine the winner of a $25,000 prize.  This is part of a $300,000 international open call to bring emerging contemporary artists into the West Collection of Contemporary Art. The winner is determined by curator and philanthropist Paige West.

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