Art Prize: The Starting Gates

Art Prize starts in Grand Rapids tomorrow.

Art Prize is an event put together by Dick DeVos’ son, Rick, as an alternative to yet another film festival. It’s a large open entry contest in which the prizes are awarded by popular vote (this year, there will be juried prizes as well). It’s good at bringing lots of people downtown–including busloads and busloads of kids–generating some excitement, and … getting people to look at “art.”

Given the open entry, there is a very wide range of quality in the art work. And since the voting system is popular, there’s a lot of catering to popular tastes–or those of the area. (For example, patriotic and religious artworks tend to do really well; a mosaic altarpiece won the top prize last year).

I’ve decided I’m going to blog some on Art Prize some this year because I’m fascinated by a truly popular art event.

One of my favorite things about Art Prize is the way even pedestrian works can accomplish one purpose of art, to get people to look at the space around them differently.

Take the horses, above, which are in the Grand River just outside of the Public (municipal history) Museum and Grand Valley State, right in the middle of downtown. While each horse is supported by a vertical metal bar, they’re otherwise constructed of branches.

The rapids in our city’s name are no longer worthy of the name; instead, a series of small drops step the river down the 18 feet it falls through the city. And many of the fish that draw crowds of fishermen to the banks of downtown year-round are farmed. It’s pretty tame, particularly given how low it is this year with the drought.

Nevertheless, you still see wild things in it, particularly herons shopping for dinner in the morning hours, these majestic birds lording over a pretty urban environment.

So I like these horses for the way they put the wild back into the Grand. They also pick up a heavy horse theme from the works at the Meijer Gardens, notably the American Horse, which lots of Grand Rapids people would be familiar with. And in the Public Museum, pretty much jutting into the river a little to the left of the blue bridge, is a round glass-walled room housing an old Carousel of horses. So while the horses won’t win any prize for the sheer artistry of the work, I suspect they’ll get people thinking about the river itself.

We’ll see how the kids respond to it when they show up tomorrow. I do know that this piece–quite literally just a bunch of chainsaw sculpted logs shaped as fishing bears put in a fountain behind the Ford museum–was a top ten hit last year, presumably because it was in a very central location,  it was so accessible to all ages, and it was a brilliant use of the existing fountain.

I expect the pack of wild horses in the rather tame Grand achieve a similar effect this year.

14 replies
  1. phred says:

    EW, I’m curious about your title. Was that your choice or the actual name of the horse sculpture? I’m hoping for the latter, because when I looked at the photo, I saw the bridge supports as if they were the starting gates in a horse race. Like you say, it makes a person look at an every day object in a new way.

    And fwiw, I’m sure Mary would have appreciated your choice of the piece to highlight in your first post on the Art Prize. Starting Gates indeed ; )

  2. emptywheel says:

    @phred: Naw, it was me. I’ll go back and check out what the real name is–not sure whether the card was on the bank or on the bridge.

  3. DeadLast says:

    I believe the horses were made by Deborah Butterfield.

    They are fun and life like, yet being made of pieces of wood that were made into a horse, then individually cast in bronze and reassembled(at the Walla Walla Foundry). A few years back, a herd of Butterfield horses “roamed free” in Chicago’s Grant Park. You are lucky to have them in Grand Rapids. The setting in the photo is wonderful.

  4. phred says:

    @emptywheel: Wowser. Your title is much much better. If there is one thing I do not associate with water it is sticking, whether in its “to-it-ive-ness” form or otherwise.

  5. Driver 8 says:

    seeing the horses in the Grand River reminded us of the first year of the event when Nessie was in the Grand…1855.5888.0.6541.…0.0…1ac.1.uFTxHUJV9_U

    Nessie now resides at John Ball Park Zoo in Grand Rapids…1855.5888.0.6541.…0.0…1ac.1.uFTxHUJV9_U#hl=en&safe=off&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=nessie+john+ball+park+zoo&oq=nessie+john+ball+park+zoo&gs_l=img.3…74766.77636.0.78165.…0.0…1c.1.AcX3Kn7q2hg&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&fp=14401e18ecd074a0&biw=1024&bih=528

  6. Driver 8 says:

    An ArtPrize entry at The BOB – Saddam Hussein hanging inside a cage – has generated controversy and acrimony between the artist and the venue.

    Artist SinGh’s entry, “Captivity,” is, according to his website, “installation art that will change daily.” The purpose of the piece, he wrote, “is intended to show different cultures and how they are captive to certain ideas.”

    The initial piece he placed was Saddam Hussein hanging in a cage.

    An email he said he received from The BOB told him “to remove your artwork immediately and have one day in which to get it out of the parking lot. Your display is very disturbing and in no way acceptable to be displayed at The B.O.B. If it is not removed within one day we will have it removed!”

    However, owner Greg Gilmore told 24 Hour News 8 he personally threw SinGh’s entry into the trash.

    Lots of comments and video >>>>

  7. Driver 8 says:

    ArtPrize has changed the lives of its first three $250,000 grand prize winners

    ArtPrize is the world’s largest art prize, and winning $250,000 is a life changer.

    Just ask Ran Ortner, Chris LaPorte or Mia Tavonatti, the competition’s first three grand-prize winners.

    The three artists together have shared $750,000, more than half of the total cash prizes since social media entrepreneur Rick DeVos created the exhibition and competition in 2009.

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