danish herring

i’m trying to figure out what smells funny about a new art competition for georgia artists.  the prize is obscenely large – $50,000.  it’s called the hudgens prize, and there’s no news on it beside reworded press releases, there’s no theme, nobody knows what kind of art they’re looking for, nobody’s saying where the money‘s coming from, and the judges are all mainstream museum professionals from out of town.

why would they want to give away $50,000 when plenty of artists would enter a contest for a $500 top prize?  why does it have to be orders of magnitude beyond what most other organizations offer?  why does it look too good to be true?  why offer all that money if you’re not pushing an agenda, and if you are, why not say it out loud so the proper subsection of artists will hear and respond?  it’s a foundation, apparently, but nobody’s saying what kind of foundation.  conservative white christian, like most of gwinnett county?  liberal varicolored catholic muslim and hindu, like the other half of gwinnett?

i’ve asked around.  nobody’s saying.  even among art dealers and gallery owners nobody knows about it.  and who’s entering?  the gallery people i know don’t know of any gallery artists entering the competition, and i’m not seeing a lot of blog posts on it, even tho it’s been announced for months and months.

the prospectus is unprofessional as well.  it doesn’t specify what format or resolution they want the images, it doesn’t say where to send the entry, they’re not interested in a bio, and there will be no response for three months.  these are details considered necessary in a real official prospectus from an established art institution.  especially one boasting such a professional field of jurors.

it smells.

it’s hyped, as well, and the secrecy factor was played up in the official announcements.  what bothers me is that nobody’s talking about it, or asking why it looks too good to be true.

The Prize is sponsored by a private foundation that prefers to remain anonymous. “They were strongly interested in supporting the arts on a statewide basis, and also wanted to help increase the visibility and prestige of The Hudgens in the state,” said Stan Hall, Chairman of the Board at The Hudgens.

“We are greatly honored that the foundation chose us to be the venue and facilitators for this exciting competition,” stated Hall.

there’s an unspoken agenda that looms large.  someone’s looking for something, and they’re not saying anything about it.

now, it could be a sting of some sort.  it could be a bunch of feds setting up an art contest, hoping to get hold of some notable tax evaders.

or of course it could be a way of evading the tax rules about gifts, and setting up the donor’s nephew to win the prize.

it could be a great way of messing with all the patrons of a regional arts center, getting them all to participate and then awarding the prize to the center’s favorite bored housewife.

it could be a brilliant scam to raise money.  at $50 entry fee, it only takes a thousand participating entrants to make $50,000.  there’s probably more than a thousand georgia artists who will fork over fifty bucks to be rejected from such an ‘important’ show.  that’s the prize money, a thousand entrants.  anything beyond that is show expenses and profit (and art shows never make a profit, in general).  hell, if i were running such a scam, i’d hype the hell out of it, cash all the entry fees, and skip the country.  it’s been done.

but what if you ran an art contest and nobody showed up?  i can only find a couple of artists who’ve said they’re entering at all.  and these are mid-level professionals, of a skill level that is commonly found at art exhibitions around the country.

this is the cruel streak in a failed artist talking, no doubt.   i’m not entering.  i don’t have enough chutzpah to think i could win, and can’t afford to shell out $50 just to feel like at least i tried.  i’m saving up to go to europe later this year.  but i think there’s something malodorous about this whole thing.  it will be very interesting to see who is selected for the final at the end of november.  if it happens at all.

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