Articles

Why Occupy Wall Street Deserved AFCRPAAaA’s Best Jerry Award

by Hrag Vartanian on February 24, 2012

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I had a great deal of fun at last night’s Art Fag City Rob Pruitt Art Awards and Auction (AFCRPAAaA). In addition to the thrill of encountering friends, acquaintances, colleagues and readers from various parts of the New York art world who converged at a Lower East Side awards and auction event that no one could remember the name of — “Art Fag City and Rob Pruitt, not officially … I think … Art and something Auction … er, I think,” someone told me during the night — I was glad that so many people came out to support AFC and their work at providing a strong indie voice in art criticism.

Paddy Johnson is a pioneering art blogger and the driving force behind AFC, though editor Will Brand is no slouch himself. The award ceremony last night, as expected, was full of alcohol, talking and gold and silver-foiled munchies — ok, that last part was a little unexpected.

The theme for the night was controlled excess. Artist/emcee William Powhida, brought his obnoxious doppelganger who may have the largest liver known to humanity, Jayson Munson (aka Hennesy Youngman) wandered around enjoying the fact that New Yorkers obviously adore him, a shiny Benjamin Franklin-looking dude offered guests nibbles to pair with their whiskey cocktails and performance artist Nate Hill greeted people with the promise of a bouncy ride.

I had ambivalent feelings about this awards show when it was initially announced even though I’d considered doing one myself a while ago, but as the night progressed all my doubts dissipated and I liked that it all didn’t take itself too seriously.

I arrived with my husband and two guests, both from Occupy Wall Street’s Arts and Culture working group, and I waited to see if my name was announced as the winner of any of the night’s awards. I had a good feeling about the fact that I was short listed in two categories (Best Franco, as in James Franco, and Best Jerry, as in Saltz) so I assumed my chances were better than most nominees. Franco was nowhere to be seen, but Jerry Saltz, always a critic of the people, was prominent in the crowd.

I asked OWS to join me last night to accept the award if I happened to win. My plan was not intended to be an insult to the awards or to Saltz or anyone else but a way to insert something that I think is important at an event that could easily make one forget the world outside. I knew that if I won I didn’t want to make a sappy statement or pretend to have something important to say when I didn’t but I wanted to offer the chance to those who do.

Since we began covering OWS many months ago I have always been impressed with most of the people involved in the movement that was born in Zuccotti Park out of idealism, passion and a sense of justice. I thought the group was more worthy to be recognized than me. I thought their sheer presence would remind the crowd that there was so much left to do even in our small patch of the globe called the art world.

When I heard my name as the winner of Best Jerry I was relieved at first, since I didn’t want to disappoint my OWS guests, and I was happy to be acknowledged for the honor. I stepped onto the stage and I don’t remember what I exactly said as I lost myself in the moment and invited Athena and Chris, the OWS representatives, to accept the honor. I was happy the award was Best Jerry and that Jerry was there last night. He’s someone I respect for his willingness to stay accessible to the public while trying new things and taking chances regardless of the consequences. I thought it was fitting that OWS would take home a trophy with his name of it as a fearlessly populist movement intent on including as many voices as it could. I was happy that Athena had the vision to bring an 18′ banner, which they unveiled on stage with the help of party staff and a very buff Jason Andrew. The OWS duo spoke about their upcoming rallies and meetings, their projects with art world figures like Yoko Ono and reminded everyone, including me, that art has a central role to play in imagining the world in the way we want it to be.

*   *   *

All photos by the author using Instagram

  • Subscribe to the Hyperallergic newsletter!

Hyperallergic welcomes comments and a lively discussion, but comments are moderated after being posted. For more details please read our comment policy.

Previous post:

Next post: