Marketing Mondays: Juried Shows

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.


Anonymous said...

Great topic, Joanne! My first "real" break came as result of a juried show at a local museum.

In 2004, my wife and I entered the Member's Exhibit at the Woodmere Museum outside of Philadelphia. We had nearly forgotten the drop-off date, and arrived moments before they closed up for the night.

Both of our entries were accepted (come to think of it, I think all entries were accepted, LOL, as it was all Member's work) and it was such a nice thing to see my work hanging on the walls of a "real" museum.

A few weeks into the show, I received an email from a gallery owner in the area who had seen my work there and wanted to see my current work, my studio (much like your story too, Joanne). We hit it off quite well, Monique loved my paintings and direction, and we have been working together ever since.

From this entry in a local juried event, I held my first ever solo show at Gallery Saint Martin and haven't looked back yet. Nearly five years in, and many, many sales later, I have this entry at the Woodmere Museum to thank for opening the doors to this opportunity.

Kesha Bruce said...

After going back over my resume and looking at the juried shows I’ve been in, I cannot name one juried show that in some way advanced my career. I’m sure this reality is part of the reason I have such a low opinion of them. And with the fees that some galleries are charging as of late (some as high as $50!) I cannot in good faith even recommend most juried shows to young artists just starting out.-- even if the juror is well respected.

Your money is better spent on art supplies, or in paying off your student loan debt, or playing the slots in Vegas for that matter...

Pamela Farrell said...

Here's my concern about entering juried shows: If my work wasn't accepted, I would like to know what was it that the juror(s) did not find acceptable. Yes, of course the juror's viewing of the work is a subjective experience. But most decisions are based on something about the work or the show. Assuming my work meets all eligibility requirements, what goes through my head is was it the first eliminated? The last? Did the juror not connect with the work? Etc, etc, etc.I also understand that a good juror is going to be looking at how all selected work will work together as a whole grouping.

I had the experience of jurying a small works show at a fair-sized arts center. It was a great experience. I worked hard following a similar process that Joanne describes in her post on jurying Thinking In Wax. There were hundreds of submissions. The initial round was easy: eliminate work if it did not meet proper presentation criteria (wasn't hang-able, shitty frame, etc. Then the real process began. I loved it. And the feedback I got from the staff and board was that they felt it was the best small works show they'd had. It was a bit of a rush to choose the prize winners--really fun to see the winners' reactions.

But, back to the business at hand: spending time and money to submit work for juried shows without knowing anything more than it was accepted or not accepted does not help me to learn. This is not to say that I won't submit work to juried shows. I will, but will choose very carefully which ones.

Joanne Mattera said...

Could three more perfect responses have arrived one, two, three? Chris had a great experience. Kesha has not. Pam got to look at the process from both sides.

It's worth noting that both Chris's experience and mine involved shows with very specific parameters, which maximizes the opportunity for success: Chris, a member's show in a specific region; me, a New York City-specific show (at the time, by nature of hand delivery)with a specific size limitation. Parameters like these winnow the applicant pool, thereby increasing the likelihood of acceptance.

I do hear you, Kesha, when you note the high cost of entries. When you consider that there would be no show without applicants, $50 is obscene.

Pam, I think you've found out that jurying is a subjective experience. I think most jurors approach their task as objectively as possible, but after the initial ix-nays on things like poor presentation, it's really the juror's call.

Hey, has anyone ever had a piece rejected from one show only to win a prize for it in another. Or vice versa?

Glenn said...

I moved to NYC 10 years ago, and upon doing so entered my first juried show… in upstate NY of all places. I was accepted and a few years later entered another juried show at the same gallery, in which they accepted 3 pieces and I won the juror's award and gallery award. I can't say that the show or awards directly advanced my career but indirectly the experience instilled a sense of confidence, accomplishment and a belief in myself and my work that I needed at the time, to continue on my creative path. That's definitely worth the investment!

I certainly have had my fair share of rejections as well, before that experience and after, and no longer take any of it personally. I've learned to be very selective now, not to pay any fees unless I am certain that the experience has the potential to advance my career in some way and/or the juror is well known. The time and investment has to be worth the effort.

Donna Dodson said...

Joanne- you are a great writer! I stand somewhere in the middle as well because you know it is a fundraiser for the exhibition venue which is a bit of a buzzkill on the other hand, I've won some monetary prizes, made sales and got commissions as a result of juried shows. I have shown in places off the beaten path- the result of which was a great excuse to travel and see some great art collections and museums I probably would not have traveled to otherwise. I've made some good connections to the art critics, curators and gallerists who selected my work for their shows and that is valuable. I don't enter anything now that costs money because I don't need to. If you have sales, you can write off the costs as business expenses. Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

While getting accepting into a show is nice, and gives me something to talk about in my newsletter, I don't believe that entering shows makes for a viable marketing strategy. The money and time spent entering just don't yield enough significant, measurable results. Results meaning: sales, or contacts with people who could help sell. Therefore, I am taking that time and money, and investing it in other marketing efforts, and hoping those will pay off better.

Stephanie Sachs said...

If you are entering juried shows do not let the rejection get to you. Several quality shows I enter only take between 5 and 10 percent of the entrees.

Several years back I helped run a juried show for a gallery. What a learning experience to watch the juror breeze through the entries giving each one barely a few seconds. Especially on the first go round.

I know every juror is different but it is truly a juror's choice and important to remember to keep your thick skin on.

Jeffrey Collins said...

I entered into my first juried show here in Columbus back in 2000. It was juried by a painter I admire (David Reed). I was finishing up the one painting that got picked the day before I took it in for the selection. I actually gave it a funny title to see if it would have some symbolism if it actually got chosen, so I called it "Gaining Acceptance". Of the two paintings I submitted, this was the one that was picked. I thought it was kinda funny, because the other painting I thought was a stronger piece.

Anyway, out of that. I was chosen to be reviewed in the Columbus Dispatch and the lady who did the review actually picked my painting to be the largest image in the review, even though it wasn't the largest painting. That doesn't matter much, but one thing I should have done to capitalize on that, was to take this review all around town and to immediately get in touch with David. Which I later did and met him on my first trip to NYC.

After that I have not entered many juried shows and now don't think it is wise for someone who has already been in one to try to be in another. I don't think it's all that wise of a thing to do.

Nancy Natale said...

Two points, Joanne: the only real success I had with a juried show was a members show at the museum in Provincetown back in the '90s. I won the top prize - a solo show the next year with an extensive review and interview in the P-town paper. Based on the solo show, I was taken into the Schoolhouse Gallery (they came after me) and had a two-person show there. They couldn't sell my work so dropped me after a year. Because of this effort, I built up my resume, had a review to use (which got my work all wrong - said it was about motherhood of all things) and sold some work to a friend.

Secondly, I think entering juried shows can benefit your work as an emerging artist by bringing up your standards. I have seen this in my own work as I came up through the ranks (I'm only about a corporal now) and also in our wax group. Having to submit work to a juror gets you to compare it to other work in the show - whether yours was accepted or rejected - and see what about your work made for success or (one-time) failure. Knowing that someone will be looking at your work critically makes you look at it differently, I think.

I have also juried a large show and curated shows where I selected pieces from artists' studios. That is fun to be on the other side of the bench but hard to be the one doing the rejecting when face to face with the artist.

I think it all becomes easier with practice, but I agree that after a certain point, it's not worth it unless the show is really a good venue or has some other major benefit.

jami said...

I agree with Nancy, juried shows challenge you to bring up your standards and I may add it gives you time to work through changes in your art. I have recently moved from concentrating on sculptural objects to exploring genre and historical painting. Juried shows have given me the opportunity to continue to exhibit as I experiment with new ideas and materials; something that a gallery might not tolerate. I was able to get good feed back from the shows in which I was accepted. Now that I am settling into this new genre I will cut back on the juried shows and begin seeking gallery representation for this new body of work.

I have to give Kudos to one juror who included in a side room of a show, a continuous loop of all jpegs entered for judging. It really made one realize just how subjective the process is and how much good art is out there.

Seth said...

Really interesting post. Thank you for the viewpoints.

Unknown said...

When I was a senior in college one of the faculty members on my final review panel told me not to send my work to any galleries until I had been included in at least 5 or 6 juried shows. That advice never sat well with me and I didn't follow it. I sent to galleries first and along the way entered a couple juried shows. I was included in one of them but this was a regional venue that didn't do much for my career.

YHBHS said...

Hello, Great posting... I've been following your blog for a few months now, and have nver commented. Its one of my new favorite art blogs! It inspired me to start my own blog.

All the best,

Anonymous said...

Hi Joanne,
Thank you for your sage insights into the juried show...
I just got into the City Without Walls show opening Saturday night in Newark, NJ.
What are the next steps moving on from juried shows to a solo show or an invitational group show? Could that be another Marketing Mondays topic?
Anyway, I really appreciate your blog.
Claudia Waters

Joanne Mattera said...

Good idea. I'll put it on the list.

Your comments have been great. Keep 'em coming.

Unknown said...

How does one learn about the merits of various juried shows?

Anonymous said...

I am a dinosaur and I come from the "dark ages of art".

I started my career on the third coast, and have now even moved further from the "center." Alas, it is where I find myself,... my own choice. I follow a tradition, and I think I join other women writers and visual artists.

In my early years, we were told it was the only way we would be shown, as women did well when gender was not considered. Now one might say, gender and age? Recently I was told, "No, you should not enter juried shows." You should move to "another level, since you have been working so long."

Recently I sent a packet to the local museum with a request to be considered for a show, and instead, just "no." No reason, no studio visit, no kiss my ass....but here is an opportunity, you can enter our juried show....?