Thursday, February 3, 2011

Should I pay big money to be in a show?

Here is a question I received and I have thrown in a few pictures from Snowcamp .
Subject: big national shows
Hi Stapleton -- What is your opinion of the big, national shows, such as the Ripov International Show? My friends and I are starting to reach the point of where we're giving up on entering them anymore. With the economy as it's been, sales have not been that great, so some of us don't have the bucks to throw away.

The final straw for me was last fall's Trenchmouth invitational. I'd paid a $50 jury fee, then paid $250 for 2 shipping labels (one was for the return shipping). At least they didn't charge a $150 "uncrating fee"! They'd held a preview before the big opening, when a woman asked them to put a hold on my painting. Apparently they didn't ask for a deposit. She never picked up the painting -- and with the "hold" sticker next to it, the painting was unavailable to anybody else.

Then the gallery said they couldn't find my prepaid return shipping label (which had been taped to the back of the painting). Fortunately, I'd kept my receipt. But it took several days, hours of driving and waiting, to get a new label printed. I live in a rural area and the hardware store that also handles UPS had to call Help, which was in India, and it was hard to understand each other to resolve the problem. All this time was time I could have been painting. I finally got the label and sent it certified, return receipt requested. Now watch them tell me they couldn't find my shipping box!

I see Ripov International's deadline is approaching. After over 10 years of paying $60 annual dues (in order that I could pay $50 jury fees to enter their annual shows), I'm thinking of dropping the whole thing. Have you looked at their show catalogs? They look the same every year, like every still life was painted by (name redacted) I'm tired of trying to fit to their "ideal"!

I haven't heard any of my friends being offered a gallery show as a result of being in one of these shows. Maybe it's better to work at doing your own best work, not trying to fit into some group's idea of "the best". I'm showing in good galleries in tourist spots along Serbia's coastline. Tired of throwing away money, hoping to fit into their "ideal".

I'd love to read an article on your opinion on this. Thanks!.......... Poodles Duodenumsplicer

Dearest Poodles;
I have written about this before, here is a link to that.
I think that it is a mistake to pay any more than a nominal fee to be in a show. Particularly to be juried into a show. My rule of thumb is this


I think that is way to expensive, if that is the going rate, I'll be gone. My work has value, you don't pay people to borrow something of value from you. I have been in a lot of shows and sometimes things come of it, but seldom. It is good to get out and fly the flag sometimes. But not good enough to put up with all that you have described.

There must be good shows in the area of Serbia where you live? Perhaps your efforts would be better spent getting into and stocking a commercial gallery. I know some very successful artists who never do these kind of shows, come to think of it I don't do them either! I am established enough that I can be that way. If someone approaches me about being in a show I ask them if it is juried. If they say yes, I tell them that my work is well known and my quality is consistent, if they want a piece for a show I may be able to get them one, but I am not going to lend them something that they "might" take. If they want me in a show they can invite me, but I don't have the time to fool around with "maybe they want it, and maybe they don't". My time and art are precious. Treat yours the same way, it will encourage others to treat it that way too.

I also don't do submissions for consideration, that is, if you want me to do a commission, lets talk, but I am not going to put time into a proposal in hopes maybe you will want it. I try to avoid working for free. I don't get many commissions, and that may be part of why, but I don't do any unaccepted proposals either. Again I am an established artist and I can afford to play on my own terms.

Shows do have a certain preference in the kind of work they value. If you are going to submit, you need to have some idea what that is. Often there is a new jury every year and their preferences may vary some, but generally shows have a reputation for showing a particular sort of thing. If it ain't your kind of thing, why waste your time?

Why not do the local shows and build a reputation in your own area. Perhaps you can be a big fish in a little pond, that's not a bad thing to be.

Relaxing at the beach, somebody bring me a Pina Coolada! I already have the umbrella to go in it.


billspaintingmn said...

One pina coolada coming up!

Good advice all around on this!

Unknown said...

well said, Stape. I was just thinking and wondering about some of these same things.
That last photo reminded me I meant to ask how you attach your paintbox to the easel.. or rather, how do you get it to stay put?

Robert J. Simone said...

Please let poodles know that it is easy and free to open an online UPS account. Through it shipping labels of all kinds can be emailed anywhere where email is being received. You can also schedule pick ups and deliveries from the comfort of home, in minutes.

I think you are right about paying to lend your work to museums. Good post, thanks.

tom martino said...

Right on, Stape! I once was about to do a show, since the fee was only $25 -- which I could afford at that time. But then I was told that the max price on my work could be no higher than $75! Of course, I declined to enter this "show". Wouldn't it make more sense to refund artist fees to those who were "juried out"? Then those "juried in" could be asked to pay an additional amount since they would have a "sanctioned" opportunity to sell! Exploitation of artists for art's sake must stop!

Sharon Weaver said...

Some of my fellow artists tell me that entering local shows will never advance your career but I do it because I like to support the local clubs and the last show I won 1st place and some money so it works for me. Getting into the national shows won't make your career but they do get your name out there. Artists who are trying to break into national recognition may find it worthwhile. It does get expensive but nothing like what the artist from Serbia paid. Yikes!

Unknown said...

This issue is rampant in the commercial art world. (For those of you that have a disdain for commercial art, which is understandable, feel free to skip this comment)

It seems that every year there are more "art tests," design auctions and other nonsense that commercial artists (especially young artists) are asked to go through before the actual paid work comes into play. The response should be more or less the same as that of a fine artist: my body of work speaks for itself. If you are interested in paying me for my work, we can talk. If you're not sure, feel free to contact me if ever you become sure. It is all well and good to be grateful for opportunities in life, but make no mistake: no one is doing you a favor by simply considering that your work is valuable. People that create art and people that wish to purchase art (or arrange a purchase) should be able to approach one another as equals and discuss terms in good faith. Neither is doing the other any favors, and neither should be expected to jump through hoops.

"My time and art are precious." said...

And vanity galleries....never heard a good thing about those either. Anyone out there ever have a GOOD experience at paying a fancy NY gallery to show your work?

Ernest Friedman-Hill said...

Ha ha -- "Ripoff International" indeed!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Put an apple in it for me.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I just set it on the struts but it has a couple of pieces of wood on the bottom that help, like rails.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I hope Poodles is reading this.

Stapleton Kearns said...

It is not really exploitation. You can choose not to be in the show.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I guess it is good to do them once in a while, but I don't think that many artists get as much out of it as they imagine that they will. If the cost is no problem to you, it is probably good to do them.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I didn't know that. But it figures.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have never heard of anything good coming out of a vanity gallery, other than my own.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I believe that is a big show in Serbia.