Tuesday, July 26, 2011

More about juries

I have spent the morning working on an illustration for the blog about oblique recession in drawing and it is still not ready. So I will write again on juries as I have further thoughts.

So, I think bringing in outside juries is inappropriate for an elected artists members organization. A one time show or art center will often have no choice but to do this, as they lack a sufficient "in-house" pool of informed jurors, or a least peers to the juried.

There is an odd difference between an art jury and a civil jury. On an art jury I think it best to have people with great expertise and discrimination. In a civil jury the best choice might be a reasonable "everyman" bringing no specialized expertise to the proceedings and representing all of society. The art juror represents a group of artists who can't all be there to make aesthetic decisions for the institution. There are more pictures clamoring for wall space than there are walls, not everything can hang, and some things are not of a quality that the other members would want to hang alongside so some pictures can hang and some cannot. Someone has to decide which is which.

Here is one solution to the problem . This would fit plein air events particularly well I think.


You win one of the top prizes, you are on the jury next year. This has a number of advantages. They are;
  • Since they won a prize last year they have been singled out, at least this one time as having done excellent or the best work in a given show. This plus the vetting they received when becoming a member argues for their expertise.Doesn't prove it, but places them in as a reasonable choice to make good decisions.
  • It removes last years winners from the prize pool this year. Jurors judge shows but are excluded from winning prizes. That gives others a chance to win a prize that year. A few extremely talented members can take all of the prizes year after year. I don't think that is desirable either. They can't do that if they are on the jury every few years.
  • There is now a payback to the organization by the prizewinner who can return the blessing that has been bestowed on him, by serving for a morning to help the organization do that for other members. With the prize comes a duty.
  • This is a real open system. People will become jurors based on their merit ( at least more often than not) not many surprises and not many ways for small cabals of the mediocre to manipulate the system for their own benefit, again a constant problem. To control the juries you have to make excellent work. Spiking the nominations won't do it.
  • It eliminates "spiking" the nominees. In many institutions some poor sadsack gets the job of calling around to members and asking them to be on the juries. It can be a drag because often the prospect will tell you no. Sometimes with a rude reason why. It is easy just to call your friends. When the membership receives the list of nominees for the jury about half of them are from the same circle of friends or amateur watercolor class.Unlike a slate of nominees from some one individual member or the president of the organization or harried director, the line of succession is clear.


Anthony Sell said...

I think that's an excellent idea, Stape. Short of having completely blind juries (where the jurors don't know the identities of the artists who created the work they're judging - a logistical impossibility), this may be the fairest way I've yet heard to insure that the same poeple don't walk away with the awards year after year.

armandcabrera said...

I like this subject.
They tried this in the old Arts for the Parks competition in the eighties and there was a big flaw. Seems the jurors favored their friends and students, often blatently so. It got so bad they did away with it.
Maybe the fact that the winner is in an already small pool of people would help but then human nature being what it is, probably not. It could still create that closed loop effect.

Deborah Paris said...

What Armand said. Unfortunately, it turns out badly for everyone. Even when those artists/jurors aren't playing favorites (and often they are) they will be accused of it.

willek said...

Terrific idea, Stape. Have you every belonged to an association that did this? Did it work? I am active in an association that invited a single juror for each of its 4 major shows each year. The juror is usually a gallery owner from Boston or an academic/curator from a lesser area museum. I often volumnteer to help on jury day and in my experience is that you never know what the heck they will pick. I am always astonished at what is rejected and what stays. Some of these individuals selects the show with the idea of showing what they could do from what they were presented with. In other words, it is more about them than the artwork. There is a difference between curating and jurying. What they are doing should be stated up front and it usaully is not.

Brady said...

I liked the idea, but after reading the comments I can see that there is a flaw in it as well.

I've never been on a jury, so do some shows hand out a list of criteria that the art must meet, or do they just trust in the juror(s) reputation?

Maybe they should have an open floor question session after the jurying so that the participating artists could question why the jurors chose the way they did.

If they had to defend themselves, maybe they would be less likely to show favoritism when they could be publicly called out on the carpet.

mariandioguardi.com said...

Historically they tried this in another Art Association That I of. Didn't work. Outside jurors are called in now. Members seem to like this. The juror is called in for show inclusion, NOT membership inclusion.That I believe should still be handled by members.

Whatever artists say...the more "important" an outside juror 's reputation the more likely artist swill submit a piece.

Most artist want their work to be seen by gallery owners. SO it's all fair iF a painter goes into these juried shows knowing what is going on: that competitions are a crap shoot (yup, even when my work is IN), it will always be about the juror's eye,it's about three seconds of consideration and raising money for the Art Association from submission fees.

I've been a juror and my choices really ranged from valiant , honest but imperfect attempts to well executed and skilled work. What I didn't care for is the cliche of a subject (like flowers in a vase sort of thing) and paintings done from photos unless they truly introduced a unique and
personal eye and painting style. Of course, Willek,
it is ALWAYS about the juror.

V. Deshmukh said...

Dear Stape,
I agree that this system could lead to favoritism. But, even if the jury members are impartial and righteous, it is quite likely that they will select paintings done in styles or subject matters that are similar to theirs. A winner of a competition need not necessarily be qualified enough to judge others, especially the young and upcoming artists who are extremely talented but lack experience.
Thats just my humble opinion. thanks for the interesting posts.
Best wishes,
V. Deshmukh

Jesse said...

I was doing some reading and happened to glance at the cover to Composition of Outdoor Painting "Clouds & Mesa". I was noticing the pattern of light and dark on the mesa's and it hit me, what a great example of stacking!

From right to left all the way across: light,dark,light,dark,light,dark!
It even continues somewhat in the ground plane.

Philip Koch said...

I've been a juror many times, which perhaps prejudices me to think favorably of such folks. I have seen what I thought were miserably juried shows, but far more often I think jurors outside or in house do a pretty good job.

One thing I would recommend to any artist who is truggling to enter juried shows is to volunteer to be an assistant on the day of jurying for a show you haven;t entered. You will learn a LOT, in particular you'll have a much better ability to see through a juror's eyes as she or he culls the herd of entries. And it will probably sharpen your sense of how to present your ideas better in your artwork.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Anthony Sell ;
Well, It is one way and it is clear and simple. It is less democratic than a membership elected jury.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I didn't know about that. Do you think that there was something about the system that led to corruption or could it happen to any form of jury.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deborah Paris ;
I think that juries are accused far more often than guilty.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I don't do shows with Academics on the jury.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Brady; Having the jury explain itself to angry rejectees is usually an angry circus. I don't think juries should be given sheets explaining what someone else thinks they should choose. They are the autonomous jury and should themselves decide what they are going to favor or condemn.

Stapleton Kearns said...

mariandioguardi.com ;
As i said, no system is with without refusees who complain.

Stapleton Kearns said...

V. Deshmukh ;
Then you elect them. But somebody has to do it, and they need to be selected somehow.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Payne was a master of that stuff. I didn't invent stacking I just point it out.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Philip Koch;
It is funny how differently you feel after long experience in this.You really have to cut the juries some slack.