Once again for Marketing Mondays, I’m going to start with an anecdote. In 1995, I learned about the annual Small Works Show at New York University (facade shown right). Even then it was known as a good show in a good venue, with a prestigious juror and a low entry fee ($15 then; a still-low $20 now).
I entered three 10-by-10-inch paintings, hand delivering them as was requested at the time. The arrangement was that on the day of jurying you were to go back to the gallery to see if your name was posted. If so, yay. If no, you went in to retrieve your work.
The day of the jurying, I received a call at work from the director: “Don’t come down. The juror has selected all three of your paintings for the show.” Yay.
Later that afternoon, I received another call: “Congratulations. The juror has selected your three paintings for a Juror’s Award.” Yaaaay.
When I got to my studio after work, there was a message on my machine: “Hi, this is Ivan Karp. I saw your work at the Small Works show, and I’d like to come for a studio visit.” Yaaaaaaaaaaay!!
That one juried show led to a solo show at Ivan’s OK Harris Gallery the following year; a referral to a gallery in the Philippines that represented me for several years and gave me a solo show; a second, more recent, solo at OK Harris; and inclusion in a large curated group show there last summer. In short, it led to a wonderful long-term cordial relationship with the gallery, its principals and staff. I hit the trifecta and kept on winning.
When I entered the Small Works show the following year, 1996, I was rejected. But because my career was moving along well by then, I knew it was time to stop entering juried shows. Still, I remain a fan of them--if you choose wisely--and I always recommend them to emerging artists as a way to build their resumes. As my experience shows, you never know who's going to see your work or what might come as a result.
Not Everyone Loves Juried Shows
My friend, Jackie Battenfield, a painter and author of the forthcoming The Artist's Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What you Love, from which the following quotes are taken, is not a fan. Without rejecting them completely, she makes it clear that they hold limited appeal for her. Her comments here and farther down the post:
“Many nonprofit organizations sponsor juried exhibitions as part of their program. In many cases, these shows are the means by which an organization collects easy money from the entry fees of hundreds of artists eager to get their work seen by a 'prestigious' juror.
"They are seldom great career-building opportunities, even if your art is selected for exhibition and given an award.
"A better way to introduce your work to an important curator or critic," she counsels," is to send your information directly.”
How Do Dealers Feel About Juried Shows on a Resume?
There's no consensus. Let me share what dealers have said to me in conversation:
. “It depends on the juror and the show.”
. “I would expect emerging artists to have entered and been accepted into juried shows. It’s one of the ways they can build up their resumes, and frankly, those acceptances tell me that someone other than me is responding favorably.”
. “I’d have to question why a midcareer artist keeps entering juried shows. Where’s the advancement?”
. “I like to jury a show occasionally. I get to see work by new artists without having to go through the submissions at the gallery." [This dealer has shown work by artists s/he has found while jurying, though I’m not sure that long-rerm representation has resulted.]
If You Do Apply
. “Be extremely selective,” says Jackie. Her other suggestions:
. “Select shows with a specific theme.
. “Consider shows open only to regional artists; these can be a good way to expand your connections to your community.
. “Most of all, apply only to those juried exhibitions sponsored by an organization you value and trust.”
. I’d add a couple more: Skip the shows in Podunk, USA. No offense to the hinterlands, but you want your work to be seen. Stick with the major cities, or major institutions in smaller cities (unless, as Jackie suggests, you're working on your regional visibility)
. Are there prizes? Is there a catalog? These perks might come from a well-funded nonprofit institution (if there are any well-funded nonprofits right now. . .)
. Is there an online component--installation images or individual works posted? That gives you wider visibility and the option of some cyber promotion. You might find this in an academic gallery
. Is there the possibility of a solo show? This prize is more likely to come from a co-op gallery. If it’s a good gallery and you don’t mind doing all the work, it could be a major perk
. Don’t submit work in a range of styles and mediums. Pick one. No juror wants to see a UN of art from one person
. Relatedly, don’t fall for the offer of paying an additional fee per extra image submitted over the initial two or three. If you can’t get in on your first group, extra images are not likely to do it for you.
The Last Word Goes to Jackie:
“Being accepted into a juried show can help build confidence in your work when you are starting out. But be careful: Don't depend solely on these venues, and make sure you are exploring all your other exhibition options as well.”
Now, It's Your Turn
Have you entered a juried show that opened doors for you? Or do you feel that you've just wasted your money? Or are you somewhere in the middle, registering a few good outcomes and a few dead ends? Do tell.
Related: A couple of summers ago I juried a show and wrote about it, Thinking in Wax. Although the exhibition was medium specific, my comments about it were not. Take a look if you're interested.