This is good. The New Museum is living up to its name by starting something new: a biennial art prize of $400,000 for female sculptors.

Five women will be awarded commissions over the next decade to create public works for the New Museum’s forthcoming public plaza. The first jury-judged winner will be announced at the end of 2022. (Jurists will be named early next year).

The prize will be known as the Hostetler/Wrigley Sculpture Award. The Art Newspaper quotes Sue Hostetler Wright who launched the prize with her partner Beau Wrigley (as in Wrigley chewing gum).

“Our intent is that the award will also help continue the critical conversation about parity for women.” Artnet notes that only 11 percent of purchases at the leading art museums in the U.S. were by female artists.

A question for the ages

Is the idea of the award to give art-making women parity or is it to reward wondrous works? I’m thinking of the less than wondrous 28-foot-tall aluminum sculpture of a long-stemmed rose by Isa Genzken that the New Museum chose to front its building in 2010.

Originally, Genzken made the towering flower in 1993 for art collector Frieder Burda, who lives in Baden- Baden, Germany, famed as a rose capital. Her idea for the sculpture was tied to a specific place for a specific purpose.

Making duplicates, not art

Genzken made copies of the statue - one landing in front of the New Museum and another 36-footer landing in MoMA’s sculpture garden. I have no problem with an overgrown rose, but a copy is a copy. These New York museums got another city’s sloppy seconds.

As if to justify a German city trademark in New York City, Genzken said on the New Museum website that her tall flower is like the tall buildings in Manhattan.

That flight of fancy led to a higher one by, self-described as the world’s largest online art marketplace: art marketplace.

Bunk leads to more bunk

Artsy said that Genzken tall rose draws on the legacies of "Constructivism and Minimalism," that it involves “a critical dialogue with Modernist architecture,” and that it “comments on the way we build and destroy our environments.”

Wait, there’s more.

Arsty also said that the statue of the rose is “an expression of hope as well as a monument to our consumption and destructiveness.”

Two can play at fanciful justification. How about this? I make a giant sculpture of, say, a skate in honor of Rockefeller Center’s ice-skating rink, and later make a copy for a museum in Germany with the rationale that the government skates over the needs of migrants. See how easy this is? Anybody can do it.

So, this is me hoping that no woman winning the Hostetler/Wrigley Sculpture Award will throw bunk around like Genzken, which Artsy will then give phony mean to. The credibility of the award, as well as those who vie for it, is at stake.