What is… Artprize?

I am certainly not an art critic. Nor am I at all qualified to determine what makes an international event a success.

However, I think it is fair to say that a massive, neon-orange, shoddily painted bean bag is not really something with outstanding artistic merit. It’s eye catching, and interesting, and a fun idea… but… art?

I hate that question.

Anyway, Artprize is a fantastic idea – we are insanely fortunate to have it here in West Michigan. It’s just that, here we are, at the beginning of the third annual installment, and the whole thing feels a little predictable. It is apparently absolutely necessary to have really, really large pieces everywhere, and to cluster several of them around the nightlife circus known as the BOB with loud music and beer tents. This, in turn, attracts everyone to the same area, with the result that it’s pretty tough to get a good look at the art, and so everyone just votes for the ones that are easiest to see.

Of course, isn’t it just as predictable that a Grand Rapids native and aging rebel, such as myself, would find something to gripe about?

Last year, we spoke with an artist from California who had developed a beautiful camera that contained the blood of people with HIV. With this amazing device, he took photographs of people with the virus, and the end product was a culmination of subject, daring, color and craft that was truly original and unlike anything else we saw. Still, when the 10 finalists were announced, none of them were smaller than a sizable piece of furniture. I liked several of them (and was happy when a two-dimensional piece won), but can’t shake the sense that the system of open voting and less than two weeks to view everything is going to limit the chances of most artists even getting seen.

But, it’s better than no Artprize at all. The first days are just always chaotic.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of what this year has to offer. I assume that once we get out of the hubbub of the main strip, we’ll be able to focus a little more on the art, and a lot less on dodging people with their iPhone cameras and plastic cups of beer.

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