GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - With ArtPrize 2012 just around the corner, an article in nationwide men's magazine GQ shines a thoughtful -- and critical -- light on the world's biggest art competition.
The article, "So You Think You Can Paint" by GQ's Matthew Power, offers a critical and nuanced view of ArtPrize as a competition and an event, and a perhaps even more critical and nuanced perspective on ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos.
== Read: The article at GQ.com ==
The main focus of the article, which details ArtPrize 2011, is the ever-present bone of contention in ArtPrize: The popular versus the critical vote.
"Critics have derided ArtPrize as a naked bid to buy cultural cachet in a flyover-country backwater, and fans have hailed it as radically open, a populist wresting of aesthetic judgment from the snobbery of elites in New York and Los Angeles," the article reads in part.
This year, ArtPrize has made some changes to address that constant conflict: The top prize for ArtPrize 2012 will be $200,000, instead of the $250,000 that was awarded in previous years. Additionally, there will be a juried top prize of $100,000 for this year, and other juried awards will be $20,000.
DeVos said in December 2011 that changing the prize money doesn't diminish the public vote, but instead bridges the art world and visitors.
Last year, Best Venue-winner Site:Lab organizer Paul Amenta told Power that he didn't know if he and Site:Lab would try again after none of its entries made the Top 10.
"I couldn't get the artists to commit to a thing like this, given what happened with the voting," he told GQ.
But Site:Lab co-owners Tom Clinton and Amenta are back this year. Site:Lab will host 17 artists at the old Grand Rapids Public Museum on the corner of State Street and Jefferson Avenue SE.
"What I thought immediately when [the GQ journalist] asked that question was, 'How do I really get serious artists to come and do this again with this outcome?' Makes my life pretty difficult as a curator to get artists to come in when they see that Top 10," Amenta told 24 Hour News 8 on Wednesday. "A couple of people have told me I have to eat my words now, and I'm happy to do so."
Amenta said two big deals changed his feelings on the competition: First, he was offered the incredible space of the old Grand Rapids Public Art Museum, including access to all of the artifacts inside. Then, ArtPrize changed the voting process and giving experts more of a say.
"What we tried to do last year is do something that was essentially a counterpoint to all that craziness that happens, like The B.O.B. parking lot, for instance," Amenta told 24 Hour News 8.
Amenta is looking forward to the ArtPrize competition in September.
"This is going to be an amazing show and that's ultimately our goal," he added.
The article also touches on the economic impact of the competition, which brought more than 322,000 visitors to Grand Rapids and had an economic impact of $15.4 million in 2011, according to a study from the Anderson Economic Group.
The article questions whether that impact was a direct boon for the DeVos family in return for its multi-million dollar investment in ArtPrize, which has yet to be self-sustaining and in its third year was largely dependent on philanthropy.
Despite its skepticism about ArtPrize, the article does say the "conversation" DeVos has encouraged and repeatedly said was his reason for starting the competition appears to have manifested:
"All politicking and criticism aside, there was something contagious about the excitement of the crowds, entire families of ordinary Michiganders asked perhaps for the first time in their lives to appraise a work of art," the article reads. "Conversations about art were everywhere: At Starbucks the baristas talked about getting off work early enough to hit the museum. A throng of third graders tussled before a huge collage of the Chicago El, their harried teaching shouting, 'What's the medium?' to which a clever one responded, 'Duct tape!' I watched a man in a plaid shirt and unironic trucker hat lean in close to an oil painting and scratch it, curiously, with his thumbnail."
ArtPrize 2012 will run from Sept. 19 to Oct. 7.
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