The winners of Chicago’s very first “America’s Got Talent” – style art competition were announced last night.
John Dempsey won the top, $25,000 prize with his “Great American Landscape,” inexplicably beating out SAIC alum Daniel Lavitt’s “Till We Meet Again,” who still took home a none-too-shabby $15,000 with his second place finish. Joseph Ivacic won third place (worth $10,000) with his snooze-worthy “Staying Connected.”
The whole shebang was a curious experiment/attempt to duplicate the success of Grand Rapids’ ArtPrize, a public art event in which artists teamed up with public venues to exhibit supposedly site-specific art works. The public then voted on their favorites via text, and the winner took home a whopping quarter of a million bucks.
The set up here in Chicago was the same, except with everything on a radically smaller scale: fewer venues, less artwork, and a whole lot less money. And a fair amount of disorganization, apparently; this past week there was a big bru-ha-ha over artist Bernard Williams getting disqualified for having “third-party promotion,” and then being re-qualified at the last minute (he ended up winning the Artropolis Prize, meaning he’ll get to exhibit at the Merchandise Mart from November all the way through the art fair next spring).
At least Chicagoans seem to have better taste than our neighbors to the north. The winner of the 2010 ArtPrize was Chris LaPorte’s absolutely dreadful, large-scale drawing, “Cavalry, American Officers, 1921.” Even if I don’t personally think Dempsey’s painting should have won, it’s certainly better than that nauseatingly nostalgic ode to the military. Ugh.
Art Loop Open promoters promise that future iterations of the competition will be bigger, better, and more organized, but my question is, how much does Chicago even care? ArtPrize was allegedly a big draw for tourism from the region, but as far as I can tell, Art Loop Open really didn’t have the same effect. Personally, I was totally checked out of the whole affair until I found out that Daniel Lavitt was in the top 10, and when I tried to rally my friends to vote for him, was faced with skeptically raised eyebrows, disdainful smiles and ironic shrugs, all communicating a basic sentiment of “I would rather not participate in that foolishness.”
Will the local art community ever embrace this radical “democratization” of the jury prize? Will the non-art scene ever care?
Check out the December issue of F Newsmagazine for more on the top 3 winners.
–Ania Szremski, Arts Editor