The unbearable lightness of the first prize

In a competition held at one of the most important galleries in Argentina, the first prize went to a conceptual artwork, decision that sparked much controversy on social media and an intense discussion regarding the aesthetic qualities of the said work. This case highlights what happens in many art contests around the world, where the supposed reflexive, conscious or critic character of the rewarded pieces has been questioned.
On this basis, I want to share some thoughts on the role of the jury in charge of deciding the winners every year, and then some reflections about the general attitude of a great part of the public attending such contests. It’s alarming that a jury, being perfectly capable of spreading not only the work of conceptual artists but also of those devoted to realism, symbolism or hyperrealism, they decide to exclude them from these kind of contests.

I allow myself to criticize the idea of "democratization of contemporary art" that proclaims through naïve excuses such things as “everything is art” or “anyone can be an artist” when there are millions of creators who for a long time have been excluded from all conventional circuits of art.

They cherish the “emergent” artists – as they are called – but the only emergent thing in this context is a total lack of real artistic value – for me and for many – and pieces of work that are completely incomprehensible that clearly don’t challenge any social conception at all (as they claim to do so). There is nothing innovating and much less can it be considered as "avant-garde".

That’s why I wonder why the members of a jury, or the organizers of these contests, don’t take into consideration this part of our society, which questions their criteria and the way they do their jobs.
Isn't art supposed to be a construction including a mix of decisions where the great part of our society can feel represented?
The attitude of the public in these contests is notorious. They do nothing but clap in an elegant manner, lacking any criticism when put in front of the said works. The real truth is that no one actually enjoyed what they saw, and they are all aware of the fake enthusiasm. And they would clap all night, scared of the feeling of being the first one to stop.
They take a role in a sketch, as the one described by Augusto Monterroso in one of his magnificent short stories, in which he accuses the hypocrite behavior of people who attend a classical music concert without feeling any kind of emotion for it. Those spectators have been told that art must be appreciated but deep down, they don’t care about it.
We can also find curators and specialized journalists ready to justify what can’t be justified, to make visible the invisible. The “awarded” ones can do nothing except to reflect that frivolous behavior: they enjoy the spotlight knowing they wouldn’t exist without that clever curatorial speech justifying their wisecracks.

I believe that we are in front of deceitful events, and I wonder when we got so far from the idea that art should be an act associated to truthfulness, or at least, a worthy intent in the search of the truth. I think about it and still have no answer.

Camila Reveco



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