Juried Art Shows: An Artist’s Perilous Journey by Tom Brand

juried art show
Say you are an active artist, working away in your studio where you are creating something that will (hopefully) communicate your feelings that will resonate with the rest of the world.

You receive an invitation to enter a juried art show because someone out there discovered you are an artist. This can come in the mail, but more likely it will come via the internet. You are asked to deliver your work (usually with some form of restriction) to the gallery/museum. Today, of course, you can enter over the internet.

You work will be chosen by a juror (or jurors). Who are these people? They are related to the art world in some way. They, obviously, are chosen by the organization. If the artist entering the art competition is curious, he/she will research these jurors and discover if they may be sympathetic to their work. Often this is hard to determine. The artist and his works may be far different in taste and experience from the anointed jurors.

If not delivering the actual work to be judged you are asked to supply images (specific digital size please) along with an application with the particulars about the work: A number, title, size and medium. (not too heavy please and (sometimes) the date of completion. It may be specified to be no older than 2 years – I don’t know why this is…..(maybe the work ceases to be important after 2 years). Other documentation may be asked for such as a résumé and/or artist’s statement. The show will hang for a month – sometimes more, but this is rare.

And now comes the most important part: enclose a fee check to the organization for $25, $30 or maybe $45. It is not stated what the fee is for. Presumably it is to defer the cost of mounting the show. But the math is not difficult. If they receive 200 entries @$25 then the result is $5000. If 30 works are chosen; hanging this show should not take more than a day. It looks as if the art organization expects the artist to be a sponsor, as well as supplying the art work for the exhibition.

Announcements and publicity* for this show is maybe minimal. A postcard is sent out for the show and opening but rarely is there a follow up. The reception costs are minimal with offerings of cheeses and cheap wine – if the viewers (and attending artists) are lucky. Sometimes the artists are asked to contribute to this as well.

We now have an art show which the organization magnanimously is offering for the enlightenment, entertainment and pleasure of the public. But who is offering this entertainment? (I consider art exhibits a part of the entertainment industry) Answer: the artists are, with their work and their money.

I submit this is completely reversed as compared with the rest of the entertainment industry. Try going to a concert, a show etc. and expect the performer to pay you to attend! The proverbial cart before the horse. So, this is what art shows are about.

Even so, the organization will be lucky to have a decent turnout. Often the organization does not inform the audience that the works are for sale. And even more secretive to the potential buyer is the fact that the organization receives a hefty part of the moneys for the art work, between 30% and 50%. The artist gets the balance and usually not at all prompt in payment.

Artists beware, your reputation and fees are soon parted.

*Publicity…

Many organizations putting on an art exhibit think their work is done when the show is hung and the opening is announced. This announcement may or not be a postcard and also (maybe) through email. Often (almost a rule) more people see an art show at the opening reception and not at all after. Follow up publicity is rare.

So—good luck with all of this.

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More on Tom Brand here and here.