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The Jury Game

by Keith Bond on 2/9/2009 3:04:21 PM

This Post is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  Find out how you can be a guest author

Juried art shows are plagued by inherent flaws. As long as juries exist and as long as awards are given, this inherent dilemma will continue to have a negative impact on art. Despite his or her best intentions, the juror brings preconceived ideas or expectations. His or her opinions, likes, sensitivities, knowledge, etc. prejudice the decision.

Consider the French impressionists who we honor and emulate today. In their day they were dismissed and belittled by the juries. The jurors failed to see or understand their voice.

Likewise, today the juror may dismiss or overlook the artists who will one day be lauded as truly gifted innovators. These same prejudices spill over into invitational shows, gallery representation, and magazine articles. Is it fair for a juror to have the right to decide if another's expression is valid or not?

To hope to exhibit ones work, the artist must unfortunately play the 'jury game'. There is some danger in doing this, though. An artist is tempted to paint or sculpt a work of art hoping to please the jury. True expression is sacrificed for acceptance. I admit that I have been guilty of that.

However, I have reached a point in my career where I succumb to the temptation a lot less frequently. I try to only submit works that I am truly excited about regardless of whether or not I think that I will win the grand prize. In fact, I actually approach each show assuming that I will not win (seriously, think of the odds). I simply wish to submit my best works.

Some jurors like my work, and some do not. I have received awards, but have often seen awards go to other artists. Sometimes I agree with the jurors and sometimes I don't (now I am guilty of judging). Some patrons like my work and become collectors. Others do not like my work. They pass it by searching for the art that speaks to them.

In short, don't be too frustrated when you don't get accepted into certain shows or galleries. Continue to submit your best work to those you do want to be a part of and be patient. Be wise, though. Don't submit a tightly rendered realistic painting to an abstract venue. But most importantly, don't sacrifice what you have to say by trying to please the jury. If your expression is sincere and genuine, and if you develop your abilities, your work will eventually find its audience. Perhaps the audience you seek is not where you think it is.

Best Wishes,

Keith Bond

P.S. Is I write this, I am anxiously waiting to hear whether I have been accepted into certain shows. Here I go, playing the game again.

[Editor's Note:  We agree, for the most part, with Keith's assessment.  Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world and mankind has to develop imperfect imperfect system is often better than no system.  So, as Keith points out, sometimes we all must "play the game."  In the interest of full disclosure, we are currently jurying an online art competition for Raymar Art.  It was one of the most difficult things we've ever had to do and it broke our heart to "cut" certain artworks from the final group.  To all those artists who hearts we broke, we are sorry.  It is not easy to be judged.....and it is not easy to be the judge.  The important thing to remember is that if your work doesn't make "the cut" - it's only one person's opinion.  If you want to see the paintings we choose as finalists, follow us on Twitter for the announcement in the next few days at]


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Topics: Art Business | Art Commentary | art marketing 

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victor schiro
I am pleased to read an article that addresses the subject of the subjective aspects of juried competitions
However,(and here it goes), the most important truth about so many if not all of the juried competitions is the glaring conflict of interest that is in the selective process. I am now treading on dangerous ground to even bring up the subject of cronyism. It is not merely the "subjective taste" of a judge that is why the same artists are given the top prizes.
Let me say this in a positive way. If your painting does finally get accepted, and possible even get an award from a judge from the pool of cronies that enter one month, and than judge another month; you have truly achieved something.
This conflict of interest is of course a fact of life in many other fields, and has nothing to do with subjective taste. You choose me and I will then choose you is what happens way too often. Or worse still, jurors who select a painting because the "artist" takes workshops from the juror.
If this sounds like sour grapes; I can assure you that I offer this truth up as a very seasoned person who had to navigate through a much tougher world in the Hollywood film and TV business for over 30 yrs. And I never cry at my age about these truths in life.
I do offer-up the subject of cronyism so that those who dare not speak get to read the subject aired in the open. And therefore not get caught in believing that art is so subjective that one's truly accomplished painting is past over for a dog or cute kitty painting because of "subjective taste".
I would hope however, that those who job it is to select jurors for their competitions try their best to have the competitions be as free of this blatant cronyism as possible. The California Art Club is bad enough along with so many of the so called academies without making every single venue a contest about breaking through the ol'boy network that pollutes too many things in today's world.


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