Jury Shows – Rigged or Worth It



The art world has a variety of ways for artists to display their work across the country and the world.  One way is through galleries and museums showing the work as an exhibition, you can join a Co-Op, you can display online and you can participate in a judged show.

So what is a judged show?  A judged show puts you up against other artists.  In most cases you must pay an entry fee to participate because the winner gets that money.  Then specific judges are brought in to critique the work and eventually pick a 1st through 3rd place winner, an Honorable Mention and a Best in Show.

These shows have a great potential for any artist but it can also have some serious consequences.

One of the biggest benefits is that you can see what pros in your medium see in your work (both positive and negative).  Feedback is essential to the success of an artist but we tend to get bias reviews from our family, friends and spouses who never want to hurt our feelings.  Judges on the other hand should be neutral thus giving you more accurate feedback.

The other benefit is that your work is put up against others in your medium.  Seeing a winning piece can show you what makes them great, what the judges looked for and you can apply that to your own work – should you fail to win or place at all.

Third benefit is if you win, you can get money and a prestigious credit for your artist resume regardless how upscale or local the contest is.  A win is a win.

Unfortunately jury shows come with some serious issues that should not exist but unfortunately they do.  The biggest problem is bias.

The art world is very clicky. Sometimes the artists know the judge somehow and thus gaining a severe edge over anyone that doesn’t know this individual.  In most cases they will automatically choose their friends above non friends.  Quite frankly that shouldn’t happen.

Another downfall is the setup of the show.  I’ve been to jury shows where it didn’t matter the medium all art was judged the same in the same category.  This is a HUGE no-no.

Art is very different from medium to medium.  The prep work, the skill set and the execution differs which means they should be judged by the medium not the art as a whole.  For instance, photography and oils in the same category.  Photography is very complex and the subject matter isn’t always unique but the technique is very important to get a quality piece.  Fine art like oil paint takes a vast knowledge of colors and how to mix them, how to apply the paint etc.  Each one is very unique and none are less important than the other.  Judges don’t always think so.

If you are a photographer and you are mixed in with other mediums – the photographer will always lose because they tend to feel the art is simple where painting is more complex.  This puts you at a severe disadvantage which almost guarantee’s you will lose.

Having participated in various shows that were judged; my work was often judged by art not by medium and I always lost because they didn’t see my work as valuable as someone who paints.

The worst consequence of a jury show is let down.  It never feels good to see your work, something you are VERY proud of, lose or not even place.  Artists work are a physical piece of their heart and soul; so a loss could seriously damage their passion to continue.  Unfortunately, their soul could be crushed because it wasn’t set up right (by medium or without bias).  They didn’t know it but they were doomed before entering.

It takes a strong Constitution to be an artist and some find out quickly in a jury show that they don’t have that.

If you are going to participate in a jury show my suggestions are:

  • Enter the show for the simple purpose of getting exposure and feedback for your work.
  • Don’t expect a win.  Enter for the fun of it and if you win – great it means more.
  • Research the show.  Make sure the jury will be unbiased and that each category will be judged individually with a 1st through 3rd or what have you place system but best in show can include all mediums.
  • Don’t take losing to heart.

If you follow these suggestions a jury show can be quite special for you with great results.  Remember the most important part is not winning, but exposure and being able to pick the minds of those who judged your work.




About Author

Jason Dowd

Jason is the founder of "The AME Experience". He hosts the syndicated AME Radio show and TV show. Jason is an Internationally Exhibiting Photographer and Artist who adores art of all mediums. He is also the founder of "Imagine-Nation Art Studio".

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