This New York Times story on the Grand Rapids, Michigan Art Prize event is a jumble of misleading intentions. The headline suggests the event as become politicized due to the fact that the DeVos family were the original backers of the event.
As evidence, the story points to all of the works submitted that have political themes even though several of the artists were unaware of the DeVos family connection (and the overall tenor of much Contemporary art is overtly political these days)—and the story points out that the Art Prize helped some of the more political works get necessary permits to be shown.
Having swung and missed on that pitch, the story shifts its focus to the difficulty the Art Prize has balancing its goal to generate economic activity in Grand Rapids and to bridge the divide between artists, the arts establishment and the general public.
There’s no simple solution to the problem, though Artprize has smartly balanced the popular vote with a panel of experts and, in 2014, the same artist won both prizes, which shows some of the wisdom of the event:
The perennial criticism ArtPrize weathers is about its unusual concept — that any business in downtown Grand Rapids can declare itself a venue and artists in any medium can pay $50 to show their work if a venue operator agrees to host it. As a result, exhibition spaces this year include an auto body shop, a bridal store and the local Y.M.C.A.
Most artists who participate recognize that the event, which brought an estimated $28 million in business to Grand Rapids in 2016, is, as Mr. Reed put it, “an economic development piece with an artsy facade.”
How a Quirky Art Prize Tied to the DeVos Family Went Political – (The New York Times)