Last year, when they announced this ridiculous thing called the Rob Pruitt Awards I thought it was a joke: the justification was that it was conceived as a performance-based art work. Come on, give me a break, no matter what Pruitt’s interview with James Franco says, we’re not idiots and there’s no “super-entertaining parody” here.

First off, an artist slapping his or her name on an award is just bizarre, particularly an artist who I don’t think is all that great or renowned (maybe if Koons or Murakami did it, the award would at least be more reputable in name). But I do think some kind of art award was inevitable as the art industry continues its march toward greater “professionalization” and toward reinforcing the equivalent of a 21st century art academy mentality.

Whatever happened to the rebellious nature of art? Aren’t we better off when artists are not being recognized by an established “academy” of sorts? Didn’t the Impressionists (the fuckin’ Impressionists!) rebel against the 19th century academy in the first place?

The biggest issue with the awards in my opinion is that Pruitt’s name is slapped on it, and it’s all being done very non-ironically.

In the commercial art world’s continuing hunger to be part of the pop culture it was necessary that awards were born. Otherwise, how else would the masses know what the good art is, right!? </sarcasm> All you have to do is look at the success of the Turner prize in Britain: the media loves to report on awards, and on the up side the prize will present another type of story related to art (beside auction prices, thefts, and criminal activity) that they can report on.

Awards shows create income and glamor for those involved. A trophy will ensure more foot traffic, a potential spike in sales, or more readers. Sure, the Pruitt Prize could hold some surprises, create anticipation, and some public awareness, but this year’s list isn’t all that inspired (Greater New York and the Whitney Biennial as best group exhibitions? Really?). I even liked MoMA’s In & Out of Amsterdam: Travels in Conceptual Art, 1960–1976 but I don’t think it deserves best museum group show.

And can we be more open about this whole process? At least we know that the Academy Awards are chosen by members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. For the Pruitt awards it would be nice to know who this supposed “academy” is.

One really positive point is at least we can say that we have gender parity in the nominations, but how about some cultural diversity? That list looks pretty darn pale and European. Then again this is the Pruitt Awards.

Another random observation from a friend about the nominations: looks like being associated with Work of Art or the New Museum doesn’t hurt your chances at a nomination. At least we know this isn’t only about quality.

Art Fag City has got the full list of nominees if you’re interested.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

2 replies on “Why the Hell is Rob Pruitt Giving Out Art Awards?”

  1. Yet another example of how contemporary art is doing its best to make us NOT give a shit about it at all. Way to go Pruitt.

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