Tonight the Guggenheim Museum hosts the First Annual Art Awards, a gala ceremony presented by artist Rob Pruitt and MCed by the Delusional Downtown Divas to reward the best artists, curators, exhibitions and writers of the year. Obviously, this is the kind of event that will inherently leave out some people who deserve to be recognized and privilege some less worthy of praise—already in the first year, the nominees are ridiculously concentrated in the U.S. Still, these awards should have been started a very long time ago, if only for the sake of fostering interest in and excitement about contemporary art beyond the small set of people who pay attention to the various art prizes handed out throughout the year.
Reductive and tokenistic as they will inevitably be—again, think of the Oscars—the Art Awards are sure to become a great annual event for contemporary art. For those who follow the arts closely they'll seem incredibly biased and myopic, but for the rest of the world they will offer a valuable indicator of what’s happening in the otherwise intimidating contemporary art community, of artists to seek out, and museums and galleries to visit. For art critics they also offer an unprecedented opportunity to do what other cultural journalists get to do all year long: make award show predictions. Here, then, just in time for the First Annual Art Awards, are The L's First Annual Art Award Predictions.
Artist of the Year
Should Win: Urs Fischer
As the only nominee born after World War II and still developing his practice in exciting new ways, Fischer should be an obvious pick (especially with his big New Museum show that opened this week), except that for the first few years this award will probably go to artists who “deserves it” for decades of work before it goes to anyone for their work that year.
Will Win: Louise Bourgeois
She's really old, and even though she hasn't been the most visible or impressive artist this year, her whole career amounts to one of the richest and most interesting in contemporary art. Plus she did it big in '08, with that Guggenheim retrospective and a solo show of recent work at Cheim & Read. Even at 98 she's still active, which merits recognition (in the form of a Lifetime Achievement Award!).
Curator of the Year
Should Win: Daniel Birnbaum
As the lone curator from a non-American institution, his work at the Stadelschule in Frankfurt, as the director of this year’s Venice Biennale and as guest curator at museums throughout Europe may seem remote, but it eclipses the significance of the work being done by the other three New York-based nominees.
Will Win: This is a tough one, because on the one hand Massimiliano Gioni has emerged as something like the superstar curator of the New Museum (curating After Nature, the new Urs Fischer show and co-curating The Generational), but as one of the major forces behind MoMA's ongoing performance series Projects, the recent Pipilotti Rist installation and the upcoming Marina Abramovic retrospective, Klaus Biesenbach has a good shot too (if he doesn't take it this year, consider him a sure thing in 2010).
Group Show of the Year, Gallery
Should and Will Win: Who's Afraid of Jasper Johns? at Tony Shafrazi Gallery
We called this one a while back, but it really was an exceptionally curated and installed show that Gavin Brown and Urs Fischer assembled, bringing works by all the biggest names in contemporary art together and letting them literally lean up against each other. No contest here.
Group Show of the Year, Museum
Should Win: WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution at P.S.1
This would make up for Connie Butler not really standing a chance in the Curator of the Year section, except the themes organizing the other nominated shows (death, the environment, postmodernism) are, sadly, bigger crowd pleasers than feminism. The art world is still mostly a man’s world.
Will Win: The Pictures Generation at The Met
As far as crowd-pleasers go, no show was better able to bring the museum-going masses and the gallery-hopping aficionados together like The Pictures Generation, with its all-star roster of artists and strong yet accessible (and inoffensive) theoretical structure.
New Artist of the Year
Should and Will Win: Ryan Trecartin
This one was pretty much decided the day The Generational opened at The New Museum and people (critics, commoners and contemporary art buffs alike) couldn’t get enough of his insane video installation of nonsensical YouTube poop, burlesque, drag and sketch comedy. Trecartin cannot be stopped right now (although there’s a sliver of a chance that Elad Lassry could pull an upset).
Solo Show of the Year, Gallery
Should Win: Piero Manzoni at Gagosian Gallery
Though not as immediately accessible as the other nominees, this Manzoni retrospective did a great deal to flesh out the provocative Italian artist’s brief but vital career and argued (very convincingly) for his place in the canon of contemporary art’s greatest innovators.
Will Win: Picasso Mosqueteros also at Gagosian
There’s a slim chance that Cindy Sherman’s rather mediocre show at Metro Pictures will pull an upset, but when the Times‘ Roberta Smith called the Picasso exhibition “One of the best shows to be seen in New York since the turn of the century,” well, what more needs to be said?
Solo Show of the Year, Museum
Should Win: Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective at MoMA and MoCA
The German artist’s spectacular retrospective introduced many American audiences to the creative force and art superstar who died before his reputation could cross the pond. In terms of giving uninitiated visitors an understanding of a crucial and under-appreciated artist there hasn’t been a bigger show in years.
Will Win: Dan Graham: Beyond at MoCA and The Whitney
Dan Graham’s already well-known to museum regulars, but this retrospective did a great deal to put his perpetually evolving career in perspective and tease out the often obscure themes that run throughout.
That’s all for this year, folks. Look for a blog post with winners and thoughts tomorrow.
(photo credits: Julius Shulman, Thomas Mueller)