What is the specific process by which artists are selected and evaluated for art awards, or for evaluation and awarding at art colleges, exhibitions or other projects? What relevance or “objectivity” do such selection and evaluation hold? These are long-debated questions which have gained in intensity in recent years, when dramatic change is taking place in the Czech and international climates around traditional standards of awarding art, and in general, discussion is increasing on the topics of the forms and ethics of cooperation, care, support, sustainability, and more.

Who selects, how they do it, and who is selected, is often a debatable, even controversial, topic. It is always linked to unspoken mechanisms, personal attitudes, and conflicting emotions. The exhibition, research and participatory project The Art of Appreciation aims to uncover some of the historical and contemporary mechanisms behind art awards and other valuation systems, while at the same time becoming a guide, discussion platform or even an arena for the search for alternatives. How should artists be paid in relation to their current needs? The Jindřich Chalupecký Award (like similar projects abroad), is now diligently addressing the question of valuation versus competition. Finalists have repeatedly rejected the “competition” aspect of the project, emphasizing the need to support and make their work visible, instead of simply comparing it with others’. In recent years, the Jindřich Chalupecký Society has been seriously considering these issues, and is now in the process of rethinking the format of the two-stage competition, in which the jury first selects five artists for a “final” round, then choosing the laureate of the given year based primarily on the finalist’s new works.

Last year, JCHS worked with sociologists Iveta Hajdáková and Maria Heřmanová to carry out qualitative research with the aim of mapping the basic attitudes towards the Jindřich Chalupecky Award within the art scene, with a particular focus on invested groups such as the artists applying for the Prize, former jury members, artists who have already experienced the Award process, educators, and other representatives of the professional and lay public. The Art of Appreciation project builds on the themes and results of this research and is part of our efforts to find the best possible format for this award that meets the current needs of the art scene and the public. Unlike the research noted above, this project allows us to explore the topic in a more experimental way, addressing speculative, utopian and even absurd positions, from which we can draw inspiration for practical action. Here we broach the subject in a broader context of other systems of evaluation, selection and pricing, both with a purview of foreign art awards as well as an awareness of related debates over evaluation and grading in art schools, diverse open calls, etc.

The project has involved a number of Czech art school studios by invitation as well as individual artists who applied for the open call. The exhibition also includes existing works by Czech artists related to the themes of evaluation, selection, competition, care and appraisal. The exhibition also presents the history of the JCA application process (from a tour of the judges’ studios to slides and portfolios on CDs, to the unified online system), and JCA, in cooperation with 2019 laureate Andreas Gajdošík, is developing a test version of the new open source application system.

Live events are an integral part of the project – performances, public discussions and a participatory programme for viewers, as well as a special web platform that will add more material (primarily text) to the exhibition while also serving as a possible signpost and archive of information in the future for those interested in the topics mentioned herein.

The project should thus serve as an experimental polyphonic space, including an exhibition location, archival materials, existing and new artworks, artistically conceived research materials and commentaries, as well as a rich series of live events and interactive programs for the public.

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