Rob Pruitt’s 2010 Art Awards: Doug McClemont reports from New York
When is an art awards ceremony not an art awards ceremony? “Rob Pruitt’s 2010 Art Awards” had red carpet arrivals, an emcee in a tuxedo, expectant nominees, a podium, corny one-liners read from a teleprompter, a mini orchestra, film montages and acceptance speeches. But the much-loved Pruitt doesn’t really believe in awards for art, or for singling out one from a category of his brothers and sisters as “the best.” Or does he?
This week Rob Pruitt’s grand conceptual gesture–a glitzy send-up/appreciation of glamour itself–commenced at the once-cool landmark nightclub, Webster Hall. The dinner and party was made possible with the financial support of The Guggenheim Foundation and the Art World’s self-anointed A-list turned out in force. All in attendance were a part of Pruitt’s play, or in the Guggenheim’s clunky phrase the “performance-based artwork.” It began as emcee Glen O’Brien took the stage after squeezing himself between two naked people who were recreating one of Marina Abramovic’s many silly works. Setting the tone for the long evening, O’Brien quipped that when he worked at Playboy magazine, a “curator” was the guy who shaved the playmates. Despite being a kind of Oscars burlesque Pruitt’s awards appeared to be taken rather seriously by the awardees, which were ostensibly judged by ballots submitted by Art World peers. Abramovic, who won in the Solo Show of The Year category, thanked the crowd while pointing out how difficult it was to be sitting in MoMA for three months. The artist completed her speech with “I am speechless.” Each winner was given a Pruitt canvas that depicted a vintage gray trophy.
Categories and winners included:
New Artist of the Year: Tauba Auerbach
Alternative Space of the Year: Artists Space
Group Show of the Year, Gallery: Primary Atmospheres at David Zwirner
Curator of the Year: Chrissie Iles.
Although Pruitt’s tongue was firmly in his cheek, the actual accolades couldn’t completely shed their own inherent sincerity. Martha Rosler and Marilyn Minter were given recognition awards and accepted them with gratitude. A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to geriatric filmmaker Jonas Mekas. In one of the evening’s few laugh-out loud moments, Mekas confessed to worrying that accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award was dangerous, because when the actress Marlene Dietrich received one, she “died that same year.”
As drinks flowed, tepid applause greeted the majority of the announcements. Throughout the evening two performers in Panda suits, (Panda bears being a cuddly trademark of Pruitt’s art) did brief soft-shoe dance numbers as the orchestra’s two trombones made wah-wah sounds as if poking fun at Art World pretensions. The crowd, while dining on family style bowls of polenta and sliced Pork, hardly seemed to be paying attention to what was happening onstage. Indeed, the noise level in the room became uncomfortably intrusive for some presenters and performers. Featured performances by brilliant artists Martin Creed and Kalup Linzy were highlights of the event. Creed played his acoustic guitar and harmonica and treated us to lyrics such as “Kid yourself just enough to let yourself just enough to like yourself just enough to love yourself” and “What’s the pint of it?” (The invited guests, which included twenty-something hopefuls and older, less-successful artist friends of Pruitt’s, blathered on rudely even during Creed’s songs). Linzy brought his buddy, actor James Franco with him to perform a duet. Franco, who along with musician Michael Stipe, was one of only two actual celebrities in the house, sported a sleeveless tuxedo shirt and hovered over a bewigged Linzy as they sang “Why did my asshole fuck it up fuck it up fuck it up for my soul?”
Pruitt’s parody was, of course, the very thing it claimed to eschew. Fortunate, affluent art makers throwing themselves a circle jerk. Or was it a convoluted acknowledgement that the Art World is a little league team compared to Hollywood? As one big, expensive inside joke, it will certainly irritate and be discounted by many looking in. That is *shrug* *wink* OK with Rob Pruitt.