Artist Banned From ArtPrize Forever

Artist SinGh with a drawing from his "Project Holy Cow" series Photo: Courtesy

Each year around this time, Grand Rapids, Michigan, welcomes all comers to town with ArtPrize, a massive, open art contest, awarding more than half a million in prizes. The ecumenical spirit is part of the point, but there are evidently limits, and this year the irascible, self-described “stunt artist” who goes by the name Artist SinGh has at last found them: He has been banned for life.

“We did prevent him from entering in this and future years,” ArtPrize director of exhibition Kevin Buist told MLive. “It’s the last thing we want to do. It’s something we never want to do again.”

Just what do you have to do to get the boot from a contest specifically designed to be for everyone? Basically, be really, really irritating. Here’s his track record: Two years ago, SinGh—who lives in Kalamazoo and whose real name is Gurmej Singh—had a very public spat with the owner of a local ArtPrize venue over Captivity, which involved him hanging a life-sized effigy of Saddam Hussein in a cage, with the promise to explore bestiality and the “rape of Oprah” during the installation’s run. After a war of words in the press, the show did not go on, with SinGh burning his remaining work in protest and threatening legal action.


Artist SinGh's Captivity in ArtPrize 2012

Artist SinGh’s Captivity in ArtPrize 2012
Photo: Courtesy Photo: Courtesy

Last year, he returned with a more conventional-sounding project, getting permission for a large painting to be installed on a fence in a local park. However, the weekend before the contest, SinGh revealed that he had expanded his vision from 30 feet to three miles, unfurling a canvas that wound through the city. Buist says the painting blocked traffic and “violated basic safety.” Nevertheless, SinGh succeeded in scoring an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for longest painting.

Map of the "World's Longest Painting" route in Ann Arbor

Map of the “World’s Longest Painting” route in Ann Arbor
Photo: Courtesy

In the face of such a back story, ArtPrize acted this year and banished SinGh from participating, forever-more. Still, organizers couldn’t stop him from taking part in his own way during the festivities. He has been posting drawings from his “Project Holy Cow” series in windows throughout town, to the mild irritation of at least two local business owners.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics