Sunday 22 January 2023


In the Netherlands there is a biennial prize for young art criticism, called the 'Prijs voor de Jonge Kunstkritiek'. The aim of this prize is stated explicitly as attempting to present an opportunity for young writers to focus on their writing and get some clout with mediapartners from the press. The stated reason for its existence is that there are plenty of prizes for writers who have gained some degree of recognition, but little to no opportunities for young writers with little experience.

This year the main prize was awarded to Laura Herman, who has been head editor of a major art magazine between 2016-2020 and is currently head of the department of curatorial studies at KASK, Ghent, a prominent art academy. With a CV that eclipses all but one of the jury members, it could hardly be said that a prize like this will have a significant impact on her career. Not even the actual prize is useful to her. The three-part prize consists of an insubstantial €3000, publication of her review in a smaller magazine than it has originally been published and the appointment of a mentor to somehow further guide her career.
In all reality the only tangible benefit is thus an ego boost and her win is therefore diametrically opposed to the aim and mission of the prize.

I don't fault the jury for selecting her. Her work probably stood out as above par in the anonymised entries.
I am however indignant at Herman choosing to participate. By participating Laura Herman has actively and knowingly taken opportunities out of the hands of others that objectively could benefit more from them than she can. Her participation can't be described as anything other than short-sighted selfishness, made worse by the fact that she won.
Because not only does her win means that some other deserving person didn't, it also communicates to future participants that their competitors will be people who already have significant careers and are able to focus all their time and energy on their writing. This deliberately shuns those who might possess some talent but are yet unable to break through into the limelight, which are exactly the kind of people the prize claims to be aimed at.

With all the outrage these days about people who abuse their positions, I thus fail to understand why this particular twisted example of such abuse is lauded and applauded.