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More Art Upstairs

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For three weeks in September, beer-fueled debates in the bars of one Michigan town aren't about sports and politics but art. Hundreds of thousands of people come to Grand Rapids to engage with blue-chip artists in ways that rarely happen at Art Basel or other established art events, unless you're a major collector or critic. More Art Upstairs follows four accomplished artists as they compete at ArtPrize, a populist experiment that inverts the equation of who gets to decide what art has value by letting the general public vote, via their phones, on which works will win much of the $500,000 in prize money - the largest award in the art world. What attracts these artists is the chance to win this public vote, but also to gain exposure to some of the country's top art critics, who dash into town to award the other half of the prize money. Local bistros, bars and abandoned buildings showcase the work and our artists are compelled to be outgoing. They stand next to their art, talking to people who are often experiencing contemporary art for the first time. They embrace the ethos of the competition but grow weary of having to repeatedly explain their approach and worry about going home empty-handed. Will this unmediated experience - no convoluted "art speak" explanations and no velvet ropes cordoning off the art - change how everyday folks think about art? Will it reshape how our characters make and exhibit their work? Will this populist experiment have any impact on larger conversations about high and low culture? More Art Upstairs melds humor, extraordinary behind the scenes access and a nail-biting competition to explore each of these questions.

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More Art Upstairs