Juried exhibitions – why should artists subsidise them?
I have previously fulminated on the subject of open-call commissions, when artists were asked to provide designs to a brief, often in a short timescale and without payment. I composed a sample:
‘The tapestry for Borchester City Chambers should be on the theme of ‘caring for the community’. It is to be ten feet by five feet and to hang in the reception area. Please send your completed designs, scale drawings to show what the tapestry will look like in situ, ten images of your work with descriptions, an artist’s statement, your cv and the application form by 20th August (three weeks away!) The artist will be chosen by 15th September, and the tapestry is to be installed by 1st December.’
I complained about thinking that artists should work for free, that sufficient time should be allocated and that the brief was often vague. Usually the selection committee will say they will ‘know when they see it’. Not too helpful to those artists trying to second-guess them.
I fantasised about creating the Art Vigilantes, a group who would award a black mark to such people, but giving them the incentive to mend their ways by the potential award of a golden bobbin.
Mostly they have indeed mended their ways, and artists are now usually paid to do designs and given enough time to execute them. Now the culprit is open-call exhibitions. These are juried exhibitions, where artists send in images of their work, usually with an application form, a submission fee, a cv and a statement. A jury decides to include or exclude, and the show is formed.
One that popped up recently is a new one, the Art Textile Biennale, to be held in two locations in Australia later this year. In positive terms, they give you enough time to submit your work, there will be a catalogue, and there is a big prize for one winning piece. The negatives are that you have to pay a submission fee of Aus$50 (= £25) per piece (you can submit two) and pay for the transport of the work there and back, about £100 each way for a large tapestry, plus the insurance, in reusable containers (another cost), making for a total of over £300. It is unlikely that any of the work will be sold. The two galleries where the biennale will be held are in Bairnsdale and Toowoomba. Have you ever heard of either of these places?
I understand that there are costs involved in putting on an exhibition, but if artists are going to subsidise a show, however worthy, there must be benefits to them as well. These shows cannot exist without the artwork.
We still need the Art Vigilantes. Aesthetic workers of the world, unite!