Artprize offers hurt, huffy response to Gawker article

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Have a successful annual art event? Does it get 90 percent positive coverage? OK, then. Maybe losing your shiz over one critical article isn't the best reaction.
  • Have a successful annual art event? Does it get 90 percent positive coverage? OK, then. Maybe losing your shiz over one critical article isn't the best reaction.


A few days ago, we noted the appearance of an article about Artprize on Gawker. Well, the response from Artprize is out, and it deserves a close look too. It’s worth reading, because it’s a fine specimen of that kind of huffy Midwestern brand of politeness that means trouble. You know, those narrow eyes, that mean smile, and that hissing voice that asks "May I speak to your manager?"

But for that charming quality, the response is mighty short on facts. It calls the article “agenda-driven, painfully inaccurate, and woefully misinformed,” without ever getting into specifics.

The statement claims that organizers were concerned that the writer, Peter Moskowitz, had said he was writing for The Guardian and Al Jazeera, and instead wound up covering the event for Gawker, “given Gawker’s specific style of written entertainment.” (A decorous example of slipping the knife in there, dismissing the entertaining website as “entertainment.”)

The statement goes on, “Our concerns deepened when he skipped several scheduled opportunities to explore and learn about the event.” Ah, yes: No press junket would be complete without the endless guided tour that shows the journalist exactly what the organizers want him to see, and to ensure he’s not confused by any controversial opinions. We can see why ducking out on a dog-and-pony show might frustrate organizers’ goals to keep coverage “on message.”

But that paragraph isn’t even over before another genteel Midwestern brickbat is tossed Moskowitz’s way: “He did seem interested in his hospitality arrangements, though.” (In other words, he accepted our hospitality; how dare he bite the hand that feeds him!)

If the organizers of Artprize feel snubbed, they seem to want to ensure everybody who participated join them in righteous victimhood. That’s almost certainly what drove a curious sort of apology “to the thousands of dedicated venues, artists, and volunteers who pour their heart and soul into making this event a success each year” that their “herculean efforts and belief in ArtPrize weren't recognized in this article.” (What? No clickable email link to complain to the editors at Gawker?)

The article closes with a listing of several more upbeat articles about Artprize, presented as “thoughtful national coverage of ArtPrize Seven by real journalists” (emphasis added).

Perhaps the organizers of Artprize should take a lesson from savvier event organizers on the coasts: Let negative coverage blow over, and realize you can’t always control the narrative. The international media you try to bring in can’t be corralled as carefully as small-town papers and regional TV news shows you’re used to. And, if you’re honest about wanting people to keep an open mind, prove it by showing you’re prepared to accept criticism, or even act on it.

The last thing you want to do is to pen a petty, fussy, scathingly polite kiss-off claiming that your poor little small-town art festival funded by a billionaire was the victim of the small-mindedness of coastal elites. Boo-freakin'-hoo.


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