ARTPRIZE–Nobel or Not?

September 28th, 2010 at 9:17 pm by under Entertainment, Inside WOOD TV8, News

ArtPrize….can it be the Nobel of the cultural and scientific? the Pulitzer and the Peabody of journalism? the Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy of entertainment?

Ran Ortner's "Open Water No. 24"

I asked that question of the first grand winner of ArtPrtize, Ran Ortner, a New York artist.  I talked to him by phone the first day ArtPrize 2010 began last week and again tonight.  He said, “Time”  and subsequent winning art pieces will determine the “value and importance” of the prize.  Ortner’s “Open Water No. 24″ won the world’s largest art prize last year.  He told me, “Artprize will be judged over time. Is it sustainable? Does it make wise and significant decisions?” Ortner went on to predict, “ArtPrize will touch upon really great art. It has the potential to be astonishingly successful.  It doesn’t have to knock it out of the park every year to be successful.  Look at the Yankees.”

I asked Ortner, if ArtPrize doesn’t choose well in the future will that hurt him personally and professionally?  He responded, “My work will stand squarely on it own merits.”

ArtPrize, since its inception in Grand Rapids a year ago, has been criticized, scrutinized, debated as to whether it really knows and can judge good art.  The art world elite have little confidence in the vote of a public that is deemed unsophisticated and uneducated in the study of art. But Ran Ortner who has spent thirty years as a struggling artist says, “ArtPrize was never intended or framed to be other than a vote of the people.”  He says, “The fear of the artworld elite is that an ArtPrize populist vote can be likened to a culinary contest where children pick ice cream and cake.” He added, “Children aren’t voting. I essentially do not agree with that fear. I do agree it’s the fear of many in the art world.”

The inaugural ArtPrize winner then made a bold statement about public opinion:  “I actually have a tremendous amount of faith in group think. Our government is founded on it, our ideal of who we are and our capacity to be, is all based on collective wisdom. It doesn’t mean collectivity is always right. But who of us would think the voice of the people would not be insightful, impactful, and decisive? We’ve based our most dear values as a collective.  It’s called democracy.”

Ortner contends there are no guarantees granted by any judge.  “People can vote by knee jerk reaction, pandering,” he claims.  “But elitist can have a bias based on their education, their agenda, their perspective that can also be a knee jerk reaction.”

So what does an artist want from ArtPrize besides the exposure and the thousands of dollars in the winning purse? Ran Ortner describes it like this: “We’re hoping people vote beyond their eyes, with their heart–to see with the fullness of who they are.  Every voter has a responsibility to be true to self, not cavalier. Slow down, consider, think deeply, be open to register the art within your internal wisdom. ”

“Great art, ” Ortner feels, “lives in our memory. Memory is the test of great art. When you step away from a work, if it’s not remembered, it if doesn’t register, if it doesn’t live in you and continue to inform you, it’s not great art.”

ArtPrize 2009 winner Ran Ortner

So what did ArtPrize do for Ran Ortner? “It changed my life dramatically. It offered an unconventional means for me to find traction.  Winning the top prize through a vote of the people was a touching and humbling experience. It’s been like night and day, it’s like stepping through a door. I was reaching for recognition and acceptance of the artworld elite. I moved to New York to be where the elite critics and scholars and galleries are and I still aspire to attain the highest level of honors and awards from them like an Olympic athlete.  ArtPrize freed me up to put more energy into my work instead of spending time cobbling my finances together.  I’ve gone from barely making it to having an abundance, a generous flow of revenue. I’m invited to exhibit in shows, commissioned to create art…I’m selling my art at three times what I charged before ArtPrize.

Would he enter ArtPrize again? “I don’t forsee a circumstance where it makes sense. The dream has happened. The highest ideal of what ArtPrize can do is provide an amazing opportunity.  It launched me. And I love the notion that it can do that for other artists. Perhaps, in ten years, for an anniversary show, ArtPrize will invite winners back to exhibit a collection of new work.”

Ran Ortner confided, “I’m making my way. I’m growing. I’m seeking success. The artworld works slowly. One’s reputation is at stake. With ArtPrize, there is no waiting for someone to be deemed great. ArtPrize circumvents that. ArtPrize and I hang in the same balance.” They’re both continuing to be judged by the people and the art world.

3 Responses to “ARTPRIZE–Nobel or Not?”

  1. Jan Jones says:

    I’m really grateful that TV 8 took the opportunity to allow Ran Ortner to clarify what he had actually said about his take on ArtPrize,as opposed to what was distorted in print. Suzi G’s blog on the subject is great! I have been blown away by the expression of creativity that has descended on GR, everything from genius to fluff. Of course there are going to be detractors,the art world snobs who have elected themselves the elite, the experts-the “professionals”- who have ordained themselves by merit of their education and eye, as the only ones capable of being able to jury and judge a contest such as this, as opposed to the untrained, ignorant masses. Really? We’ve all witnessed with amusement some of the art and pieces that have tried to pass themselves off as art that have been given big bucks through grants and art endowments,hung in the most pretigious galleries and museums. All deemed worthy by the experts. Let’s face it, any artist will tell you, they live to connect with their audience, for the response. Most of them know they won’t walk away with the prize,but they want the exposure. All of them know that no two people look at the same piece of art and see it or respond in the same way. The unique thing about ArtPrize is that it challenges a person’s definition of what art is, not limit it to a narrow view. That is the risk of it also-it draws the excellent and the weak. But each one has something to say. Each one hopes for recognition and acknowlegement,and hopefully award. I appreciate how TV 8 has covered this exciting event. The one thing Iwould have liked to have seen is showing more of the pieces that are so far away from foot traffic they almost have to be stumble on accidently to be seen. This happened to me when I suddenly came across “svetlata”,the glass mosaic by Mia Tavonatti. It stands alone-literally- hanging alone in the farthest corner on the first floor of DeVos Center, surrounde by empty walls and vast,empty space. I was blown away by it’s stunning beauty, I have been in many galleries, museums, and among artist peers for many years. I have never seen anything so beautiful. The perfect use of color, light, an tecnique-it would make Monet cry. And yet, there were no people. It is hidden from foot traffic. This to me is the biggest shame of this event, that the opportunity is here to come see something that is incomparable to any other entry I viewed in the past week, but they will not see it because they don’t know it is there! Unbelievable.

  2. jerry says:

    i find it interesting after competing in artprize last year myself. how you need to have the backing of the media to get to the top 10.

    with the amount of entries in this popular vote competition no one person can view all of the objects that are entered.

    i myself sat and watched people voting on a sculpture while watching a guy finish his mural on the back of the kendall building.

    i spoke to 21 people asking if they had been voting this year or if they had voted on that piece they were just looking at. there reply was the standared yes we did.

    i further asked them if they got a reply from there vote. the answer i got from 11 of them was no!

    then i asked have you gotten any from any of your votes? the answer was no to that to.

    how can we have a competition that reaches out across the world with a screwed voting system?

    seriously come on, this needs to be addresed!

  3. tmbo says:

    I totally agree with Garrick Greathouse. It’s not just art either. I still don’t understand why we need to study Plato or Socrates in school when common sense authors like Anthony Hopkins or Jack Canfield can provide us with more easily understandable knowledge. Who needs the cave and shadow stuff.
    And what about history? Look at the facts… we don’t need some ivory tower elites to tell us how to understand things. We just need to turn to the Bible for the true HIStory.
    You know, I’m perfectly happy following my own common sense about what is good in art, music, literature, science, history, philosophy, religion, etc., etc.. We don’t need no no-it-alls telling us what to think. We are totally capable of telling ourselves! That’s why Artprize is such a good thing.

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