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ArtPrize: Competition and Social Experiment
by Donna Schumacher


ArtPrize, the so-called “world’s largest art prize,” dangled a $250,000 award in front of the citizens of Grand Rapids, Michigan, enticing them to visit its 2009 inaugural exhibition, cast their ballots, and become part of an impassioned dialogue about art. With nearly 38,000 voters and 1,300 competing artists, the city was soon abuzz with opinions about who should win. Thanks to the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not”-inspired title, founder Rick DeVos created an innovative platform—“think <Matchmaker.com> but with artists”—that cleverly conjoined Internet connectivity with a city searching for a sense of place during an economic downturn. Artists posted images of their work and described their ideal type of location. Venues posted possible sites to encourage proposals. Interested parties contacted each other to determine if there might be a good fit. By generating plug-and-play art match-ups, ArtPrize gave artists a unique opportunity to try their hands at the sometimes daunting public art realm.

Jason Hackenwerth, The Ecstasy of the Scarlet Empress, 2009.
Balloons, installation view.

Image: Courtesy ArtPrize/Brian Kelly Photography


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