I've read some buzz about the ArtPrize competition. A few art critics and NYC art dealers have called it a sign of desperation rather than an opportunity for artists-- implying that anyone who enters it is 'just desperate'. In fact, one critic of the competition-- András Szántó -- suggested that anyone who wins the competition will never be accepted in the mainstream art world.
András Szántó also suggested that the $400,000+ cash prize should have been donated to existing art programs or as grants to artists who are represented by notable galleries. He actually made the case that only a select few should dictate what is 'good' art or 'bad' art instead of the general public-- backing the idea that only certain individuals are capable of understanding or appreciating art.
Szántó stated, "we already have a system for recognizing meritorious artists", "Would we pick heart surgeons this way? Architects? Firemen?", and "Rather than creating yet another channel of art-world mobility, how about improving what we have?" The only problem with that opinion is that a lot of great artists are never recognized by the mainstream art world-- or are cast aside due to gender or age -- so one could say that the 'system' Szántó speaks of has failed.
That said, I would have to ask Szántó if that is a sign of the failure of art critics or a sign that maybe, just maybe, there should be more opportunities for artists in general. At the very least there should be more rights for artists within the 'art world'. There is always room for the 'system' to improve, right? If needed there is reason for the 'system' to be destroyed and built again with the advances of today and the idea of equality in mind, true?
The basics of ArtPrize from the ArtPrize site: "At ArtPrize, any artist—from established to emerging—has the chance to show work. Any visitor can vote. The vote will determine who wins the largest art prize in the world. We also took the unusual step to allow people in the city to open a venue and choose the artists to show in their space. There is not one official curator or jury for the competition."
The main point of criticism about the competition is the fact that the public will decide the winner. In other words, those who have spoken out against the concept of ArtPrize feel that the competition is worthless to the winners since the competition does not involve professional jurors (I guess it would be a better competition if it involved them?). True, I prefer art competitions that involve a strong panel of jurors. That said, I don't think an artist is "desperate" if he or she decides to enter an art competition that is judged by the public.
My opinion is that the critics of this competition are stuck in the past and fear change. They fear the same public that they strive to reach out to with their art criticism and exhibit reviews. They don't want the flood gates of the art world to be opened to the public-- while at the same time it is common for these same individuals to complain about how the general public is not interested in art. It is obvious that they want the 'system' to change-- on their terms. They want a segregated system that supports the faces and spaces that they praise while upholding a facade of public inclusion-- just as it has always been.
I think the words of András Szántó reveal that some key players in the mainstream art world are wary of online juried art competitions in general regardless of how they are judged. After all, there have been a number of online art competitions involving jurors from the TATE and other high profile museums and galleries (including myartspace.com competitions-- www.myartspace.com/contests) and, as far as I know, none of the ArtPrize naysayers embraced those competitions. Thus, it would seem that certain individuals are not very accepting of online art competitions in general-- or the way the internet is changing the art world for that matter. Why? Because art competitions of this nature are a thorn in their 'system'.
There is obviously a fear of public opinion coming from those circles. In fact, one comment suggested that if the chosen work does not reflect the choices of professional art critics it would mean, at least in the eyes of the public, that the opinion of high profile critics does not really matter in dictating public taste for art. I think people already know that though-- people like what they like regardless of who said what, when, and where.
It is amazing to observe the unease that the internet has caused for traditionalists within the core of the art world. These are the same type of individuals who scoffed at the importance of having a website in the 1990s. Because of that the majority of the art world is only now catching up to technological standards that other businesses have long embraced.
In closing, one could say that the internet is forcing a few key art world figures to release their grip-- or has at least forced them to think about their future relevance within the art world as a whole. Is it a sign of desperation if an artist enters ArtPrize or any other online art competition for that matter? I don't think so. It is just an opportunity-- an opportunity that some artists will enjoy participating in.
That said, I think individuals who openly scoff at online art competitions are truly desperate-- especially when they talk about their beloved 'system' and how competitions of this nature threaten said 'system'. What say you?
Links of interest:
myartspace Forum debate
The Thorny Authoritarian Issue : Open Thread -- Winkleman Blog
The Prize of Desperation
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