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ArtPrize is an art competition in Grand Rapids, MI, created by Rick DeVos. Prizes totalling $560,000 were awarded at last year's event, making it the largest total prize purse for art in the world. ArtPrize 2015 is open from September 23 through October 11.


Quirks of ArtPrize


ArtPrize is extraordinarily well run, and it models lots of ways to engage regular and social media. It's also a great excuse to discover Grand Rapids.

If you get frustrated a little (and you might!), it helps to remember that you're there to look at an interesting social experiment as well as the art.

A few quirks about ArtPrize:

1) Anyone can enter. This is, overall, a great attribute. It increases the chances of your discovering an artist before the artist becomes known. But it also means that some of the art will not be of the quality you'd find in a juried show. Since the non-juried art is spread throughout a three-square-mile area that includes multi-storied buildings, one has to do a lot of looking and walking to discover the better pieces.

2) ArtPrize is held in Grand Rapids, MI. This means that it's easiest for Michigan artists to enter, just because of the difficulty of transportation. As a result, ArtPrize will continue to be Michigan-centric (unless #1 changes), in spite of the high value of the prize.

ArtPrize2011

3) Voting is skewed to sites with the most visitors. If only 1% of the visitors at a high attendance venue vote for a piece, the piece will get more votes than if 100% of the visitors had voted for it at at a low attendance venue.

4) The sites with the most visitors are currated by art and museum professionals. This has the effect of increasing the chance of being in the top ten for artworks selected by museum currators. As a result, the top ten have a bias towards juried pieces, balancing the "anyone can enter" aspect of #1.

ArtPrize 2011

5) If ArtPrize continues, its value to artists will depend somewhat on whether a market for art develops around it. Can a good artist not in the top ten gain enough exposure to collectors in two weeks to justify the expense of entering?

If not, ArtPrize will skew towards being a Michigan Art Fair. The size of the prize will continue to attract first-time entrants from around the world, but the cost of shipping to the event will diminish repeat participation except for locals.

On the other hand, if a significant market develops for art at ArtPrize, the quality of the art submitted could continue to increase and the presence of international artists and known artists could grow over time as word spreads.

Maybe Next Time, ArtPrize 2011

One way to encourage this to happen would be to have an "After Party" of the best pieces from ArtPrize all displayed in one (very large) venue. Ideally, these would be up until the end of ArtPrize in the following year.

This would give collectors and media a place they could see the art without having to walk for miles. The After Party could include, as a for instance, the top 25 vote getters and the winners of the currated prizes. Putting these pieces in the same space would encourage ongoing conversation and increased media and collector exposure. It would also dramatically increase the significance of ArtPrize in the international arts community. As word spreads, it would make Grand Rapids a year-round destination for arts.

Because many of the pieces in ArtPrize are large scale, a project like this would require a large space. It would also require someone who could convince the various artists of the value of having their work on exhibit for another year. But I believe it would be worth it for all concerned.

A step in this direction was taken by the Grand Rapids Art Museum in 2012 and repeated in following years. The museum selected 13 artists from ArtPrize 2012 and exhibited them for a year. Although the selections did not focus on ArtPrize winners, they did help move the conversation about ArtPrize from being a seasonal obsession to a more integrated year-round topic.


ArtPrize notes


1) To get noticed at ArtPrize, entries have to be big, as in monumental. What looks big in an artist's studio won't look that big next to 18-foot tall paintings, drawings and sculptures.

As an example, in 2011, nine of the ten finalists were large scale. The one that wasn't was a life-size sculpture of President Gerald Ford, a home-town hero in Grand Rapids.

2) If you see lots of ArtPrize entries, you'll eventually see people making art out of almost anything.

You'll see quite a few pixillated works. For example:

Detail, beads, ArtPrize 2011

ArtPrize 2011

A giant eye made out of pushpins.

Rubiks Cube portrait at ArtPrize 2010

Pete Fecteau's 2010 entry "Dream Big" made out of Rubik's Cubes

Pete Fecteau had my all-time favorite quote of ArtPrize, in a report by Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood.

Two weeks before the start of the 2010 ArtPrize, Pete was less than half done with his 22-foot mosaic of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jennifer saw him unloading 2,500 rented Rubik's Cubes that he still had to twist into the right designs to complete the mosaic.

Jennifer wrote:

 

Fecteau wasn't sweating it. At least not openly.

"In the inside, I'm screaming a little," he said, smiling.

Lots of people working on monumental projects can relate.

With these pixillated works, occasionally the medium and the message match, as in the case of a portrait made of bras.

Bra Portrait, ArtPrize 2011

 

Other pages on ArtPrize that you might be interested in:
Tips for Visiting ArtPrize
Highlights of ArtPrize 2010
Highlights of ArtPrize 2011

Pages on other art events that you might be interested in:

Understanding Abstract Art

Art Basel in Switzerland
Art Basel Miami Beach

New York Art Galleries
Venice Biennale 2011
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Auto body building, Minneapolis. Photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010.

Auto body building, Minneapolis. (I ran out of Grand Rapids photos. I'll have to go back for more.) Photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010.

Building, Basel, Switzerland. Photo copyright Mark Dahle 2011.

Building, Basel, Switzerland. © Mark Dahle 2011.

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Crane, Basel, Switzerland. © Mark Dahle 2011.

Hazard light, Basel, Switzerland. Photo copyright Mark Dahle 2011.

Hazard light, Basel, Switzerland. © Mark Dahle 2011.

Steam plant, Grand Rapids, MI. Photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010.
Steam plant, Grand Rapids, MI. Photograph © 2010 Mark Dahle

Downtown, Grand Rapids, MI. Photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010. Downtown, Grand Rapids, MI. Photograph © 2010 Mark Dahle

Storage tank, Grand Rapids, MI. Photo copyright Mark Dahle 2010.
Storage tank, Grand Rapids, MI. Photograph © 2010 Mark Dahle

Train trestle with trees, Basel, Switzerland. Photo copyright Mark Dahle 2011.

Train trestle with trees, Basel, Switzerland. © Mark Dahle 2011.