Pandas Presenting. Rob Pruitt's 2010 Art Awards, December 8 at Webster Hall. Photo: Roger Kisby © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
2010 Art Awards: Notes from the Nosebleed Section
The orchestra tunes up. A man and a woman stare, naked, unflinching, into each other’s eyes. If this were not the 2010 Art Awards, someone would definitely be about to get hurt- or defiled. But unlike the start of a trashy romance novel or foreign film, these nudes stand on stage reenacting a Marina Abramovic piece in front of hundreds of artists, gallerists, and art enthusiasts alike, each one eagerly anticipating what pop artist Rob Pruitt might have up his sleeve this year’s second annual "Art Oscars." From the balcony of the Webster Hall auditorium, the "Basquiat" section (Warholians are on the floor below), the artist’s presence is felt long before I actually catch a glimpse of her in a red breast-baring lace blouse.
Initially conceived as a parody of the awards ceremony institution, Rob Pruitt’s Art Awards seem to have taken on a life of their own, proving that Pop Art has as much virility now as ever before. Though Richard Hamilton’s piece For the Finest Art, Try Pop was initially published in 1961 referring to the emergence of the movement in America, Pruitt’s ceremony proves its relevance in today’s art world. Hamilton eloquently explains that “a new generation of Dadaists has emerged today, as violent and ingenious as their forebears, the Son of Dada is accepted, lionized by public and dealers, certified by state museums- the act of mythmaking has been transferred from the subject-matter of the work to the artist himself as the content of his art […] Pop-Fine-Art is a profession of approbation of mass culture, therefore also antiartistic. It is positive Dada, creative where Dada was destructive. Perhaps it is Mama- a cross-fertilization of Futurism and Dada which upholds a respect for the culture of the masses and a conviction that the artist in twentieth century urban life is inevitably a consumer of mass culture and potentially a contributor to it.” Nearly fifty years later, I dub Rob Pruitt the official founder of the Mama movement.
Glenn O’Brien. Rob Pruitt's 2010 Art Awards, December 8 at Webster Hall. Photo: Roger Kisby © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
As generally becomes the case when unique conceptual works are filtered down into mass culture, though, all elements of challenging hierarchy dismantle because the work exists within the structure that is being critiqued. As Jean Baudrillard writes, “[…] From medium to medium, the real is volatilized, becoming an allegory of death. But it is also, in a sense, reinforced through its own destruction. It becomes reality for its own sake, the fetishism of the lost object: no longer the object of representation, but the ecstasy of denial and of its own ritual extermination: the hyperreal.”
In this context, Jerry Saltz’s award for “Blogger or Critic of the Year” is an interesting case. Perhaps choosing Saltz, the only nominee in this category who has been on a popular television show directed towards a mainstream audience, is a comment on the celebrity value in today’s culture. If this is the art world’s version of the Oscars, then why shouldn’t the biggest video star win? Though if video killed the radio star, and the Internet killed the video star, maybe Paddy Johnson- author of the popular blog, Art Fag City- should have taken this one. Experiencing this ceremony as a performance piece, it is hard not to wonder what is implied by the judges’ selections and how deeply we should be reading into them.
Fortunately, even if not everyone was in on the art-world joke, no one seemed to be taking him or herself too seriously. (How can you, when giant stuffed pandas- Rob Pruitt’s signature incarnated- are dancing around on stage?) Even Marina Abramovic herself let loose outside the auditorium doors and had a little fun with me and my press pass at the photo station. Travesty or truth, all in all it was a fun night. No one seems to have put it better than Gerhard Richter, when he states, “The … ‘art scene’ is not despicable, cynical or without spirit but as a temporarily blossoming, busily proliferating scene it is only a variation on a perpetual social game that fulfils needs for communication, in the same way as sport, stamp collecting or breeding cats. Art happens despite this, rarely and always unexpectedly, never because we make it happen.”
Rob Pruitt’s 2010 Art Awards took place on the evening of Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at Webster Hall in New York City, in association with The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and White Columns.
Rob Pruitt's 2010 Art Awards, December 8 at Webster Hall. Photo: Roger Kisby © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
Christopher Wilcox, Marina Abramovic, Rebecca Rothberg. Rob Pruitt's 2010 Art Awards, December 8 at Webster Hall.
Jerry Saltz, Bill Powers. Rob Pruitt's 2010 Art Awards, December 8 at Webster Hall. Photo: Roger Kisby © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
Marina Abramovic. Rob Pruitt's 2010 Art Awards, December 8 at Webster Hall. Photo: Roger Kisby © The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
California native Rebecca Rothberg graduated from Washington University in St. Louis where she received a B.A. in Art History. She worked in several museums and galleries specializing in modern and contemporary art including the Sundaram Tagore Gallery in Beverly Hills, White Flag Projects in St. Louis, and The Israel Museum in Jerusalem. She has also worked with fashion photographers Ash Gupta and Guiliano Bekor. Rebecca currently resides in New York City. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org all articles from this author