Of the giving of prizes there is no end, and it’s hard to think of a single one, however ostensibly prestigious, that hasn’t been devalued by the promiscuity and/or lack of discrimination with which it is handed out.
I’m not here to beat up on Neil Simon–I’ve done that enough in my Wall Street Journal drama column in the past couple of years. Instead, I want to ask a question that seems to me obvious but turns out not to be: has there ever been a prize in the arts that was worth having? Is it possible for any institution to give an award for artistic achievement that has real significance?
Looking back over the long history of such prizes, it strikes me that even the best-laid and most idealistic institutional plans are inevitably subverted over time by non-artistic considerations. Sooner or later the temptation to inflate the currency in one way or another becomes irresistible…
Read the whole thing here.