The world abounds in awards and prizes for exemplary human achievement. Among those honoring criticism or scholarship in the arts, however, none are based on an objective view of the underlying concept, art. None require a distinction between work merely alleged to be art and that which is, in fact, art. All embrace the notion that anything can be art if the artworld says it is. Selection criteria are expressed in the vaguest of terms. The Pulitzer Prize, for example, is given for distinguished arts criticism; the College Art Association's Frank Jewett Mather Award, for significant criticism in the visual arts; the National Magazine Awards, for excellence in reviews and criticism, as well as in feature writing, profile writing, essays, columns, and commentary; and the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism (broadly construed), for the finest book published in English on the subject.
The Aristos Awards, established by the Aristos Foundation in January 2006, differ fundamentally from the awards enumerated above, and from others like them. Briefly stated, they are given for objectivity in arts criticism, scholarship, or commentary. Such objectivity involves the recognition (usually implicit) that art has a particular nature, and that the art of the present necessarily bears a fundamental similarity to the art of the past. Often, the resulting conclusion is that a work regarded as art by experts is not art at all. The fullest explication of the point of view underlying the awards is found in What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand.
Selected by the editors of Aristos, recipients of the Aristos Awards include not only critics and scholars specializing in the arts but also writers and scholars in other fields, as well as ordinary people. Admittedly modest, the awards at present consist solely of a citation in these pages, with no attendant ceremony, medal, certificate, or monetary prize. Not confined to an annual schedule, they are bestowed whenever worthy recipients are identified, even retroactively or posthumously, to individuals active anytime from 1900 to the present. Both written and spoken remarks are honored, in long forms and short--from books, essays, articles, and columns to statements made to interviewers and reporters and letters "to the editor." Finally, the awards pertain only to the individual's views on art as specified in the award citation--independent of any other beliefs held, whether in respect to art, philosophy, politics, or culture.
[revised November 2007]