Associate Professor of Art & Photography.
Getting Your Art Accepted for Exhibitions
Choosing an Exhibition
There are lots of websites where you can find calls-for-entry opportunities. You can even sign up to have announcements emailed to you so you can be notified as soon as the calls to out. The trick is to choose exhibitions that fit the artwork you make. For example, photography exhibitions will many times have themes. If they are asking for portraits and you send landscapes, the jurors are not going to choose your work. Once I entered an exhibition for PRINTS. It wasn’t stated, but I later found out that the selection didn’t include photographic prints, only printmaking prints.
Since juried exhibitions and other calls-for-entry ask to see digital photos, digital photographers have a distinct advantage over other artists. Photographers can send copies of original files while maintaining perfect fidelity. Other artists will need professional digital photographs of their work. Don’t compromise when having your work professionally photographed. A juror can’t see the quality of an original artwork so they rely on the quality of the photograph. In fact, to a large degree jurors assess the quality of the photograph because they can’t see the original artwork. The image is all they have to go on.
Will the Artwork Catch the Juror’s Eye and Hold Their Attention?
The first quality that a juror is looking for in an artwork is a high degree of visual impact. As the juror is scanning through hundreds of images, only the images that stand out from the crowd will make it to the next level of selection. Once in the second round your images must again stand out to make the final selection. Is your artwork an original approach? Is the piece compelling, does it communicate something visually interesting regarding the topic of the exhibition? If so, your work has a good chance of being selected!
Titles won’t usually effect your chances for being selected, but tired, old cliché titles can cause a juror to move you to the bottom of the list when they are in the final decision making process. For suggestions with titling, see my titling suggestions.
Keep in mind that some venues for exhibiting have limited space. This means that larger pieces are more vulnerable to elimination.
Choosing Artwork to Submit
In my experience, when an exhibition asks for three pieces I always include two of my favorites and then I let someone else choose the last one. I can’t explain why, but the third one, the one I would never have picked gets in about 80 percent of the time over the ones I choose. Also, many exhibitions ask for work created within the last two or current year.
Be very careful to meet deadlines. I suggest making an Excel spreadsheet that lists deadlines, exhibition dates, and other important information like entry fee costs.
Digital File Preparation
Follow file preparation instructions exactly. Files that aren’t prepared to the specifications in the entry instructions are immediately eliminated. This is a big stumbling block for some artists, especially one’s that aren’t digitally savvy because you may need to use Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Elements to prepare and size the files (you may also use www.pixlr.com for free resizing). It is common for the prospectus to specify the largest file dimension in pixels. Make sure you name the files exactly the way specified in the prospectus. For example garin_horner_title1.jpg. Don’t get tripped up here. Also, as you number the images consider the order you would like the juror to see your images.
Google the jurors and learn something about them (are they artists…what do they do?), it might influence your choice of what to submit. Along this line, it can help to keep track of jurors. You might even put their names on the Excel spreadsheet you made. Once I had work accepted into an exhibition and saw the same juror’s name on another exhibition a couple of years later. I entered that juried exhibition and was again chosen for the show.
Don’t send any statements, resumes, or other info unless they ask for it.
When submitting your work for an exhibition you are entering into a competition with other artists. In every competition, there are winners and losers. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Losing eventually happens to everyone but it’s no reason to stop sending artwork to shows. At some point, everyone has felt excluded and rejected but not having your work chosen isn’t a personal statement about the quality of your artwork. Maybe your work doesn’t fit the theme of the overall selection group. Maybe the juror just didn’t care for your approach. Maybe there was too much good work to choose from. Whatever the reason, don’t take it personally. Some jurors will chose your work and some won’t. Everyone gets rejected sometimes, its just part of the exhibition experience. Just take a deep breath and don’t let this stumbling block stop you from your goal!
This isn’t really a tip for getting into shows, but I would like to mention something about artists who make and sell one-of-a-kind artworks. It is possible to sell artwork and still exhibit it. At the time of sale, ask the seller if they would be willing to loan the work for occasional exhibitions. Many say yes. Exhibiting increases the value of the artwork, you can win money, and it increases your exposure.