Art Fair Jury Process

Art Show Jury Process

I have been asking myself some questions about the art show jury process. At the start of November 2023 the NAIA (National Association of Independent Artists) offer a series of Zoom meetings that I decided to participate in. It gave me the opportunity to talk with directors, jurors and fellow artists. I was humbled to learn how little I knew about the process that influences my income. Let’s just say each art show is its own thing and there is no standard format for the way we submit applications via Zapplication or Juried Art Services and once in a while Café (aka: call for entries).

How am I going to approach the next set of jury images (Florida 2025)? It will be different from before. I have a set 10 shows that I will apply to knowing that odds are against me. Then there are the back up shows, which fill the rest of my calendar. Because I know my average sales per show, I need to do about 20 shows minimally and have 4 to 6 more just in case of bad weather.

First, I need to assess in Zapp how many applications the show gets. Then I need to find out how many artists are invited, this can be sometimes as high as 50%, followed by how many artists are selected. What I consider a good show would have 200 to 250 artists. A smaller show will be around 100 artists. A large show or combo show could be between 500, 1000 or more. When I start looking at these factors, I can figure the odds of any one to get in.

Second, how is the jury process conducted. Projection with jurors in one room, monitor with all jurors in one room, zoom monitor jury and remote monitor. The remote monitor is the only one that offer enough time to evaluate each image. Most of the jurors do not get paid to do this and even if they do, they don’t make enough for their time since it can take almost a week to the process. The speed that the jury has to make an evaluation also influences the images that I select for the jury process. How much does the booth image matter, it is different for each show and jurors. Can the jurors talk to each other during the process? Can one juror keep you in or out? How many fellow artists are part of the jury process, which is most controversial but also the most helpful.

Third, find out the list of artists that had done the show before. Visit a show with the same level as the show you are applying. Understand the importance of your presentation. You will find that you get rejected because of your presentation. Also are you bringing something unique to the show?

Fourth, find out what is the goal of the show.

After I do all that, I consider all those steps and I can start to evaluate my conflicts. Even after all that, I hate to admit, there no a good solutions but there is a work around the conflicts.

Let start with my own evaluation and simple terms: I am in the middle to upper middle of the pack. What that means to me are the odds of getting into so called B shows is good and 20% odds for high end art show. I create work for the art show and not for galleries. Basically, I feel good when I send in an application. This is a more important step in my opinion, before your expectation comes crashing down. I need to let my ego go. When I get to meet a top artist, I try to ask if they have time to stop at my booth and ask what pointers they have for me to improve my odds. Also, this helps because sometimes what they see during the jury process does not give the same impact as person. I really think I need to focus on creating a presentation that gives a better impact. I was told a while ago to try and always do best presentation possible because you never know if fellow artists will be jurors in the next show you’re applying to. I was told you have better odds if the juror had seen your work in person and you gave them a good feeling about your work. This factor is why people sometimes get confused with biases. Also, you may need an artist juror to explain your work because people outside of the art fair world may not have a good knowledge of your medium. This is the reason why it is important to answer the technique question properly even if I think the concept is more important to me. Another thing is overlooked by artists is when the juror gets to see your work; are you first or last in the order of viewing and are they fatigued and also did they have time to preview the application.

I do not know if I am missing any points so please guide me.

I will conclude with this factor: when I see an artist getting in to the top shows all the time I understand that their work is good. Maybe I am behind few steps. Maybe their presentation is that outstanding that even if they are at my same level, their jury presentation is better than mine. I just ask myself over and over what else I can do. That is why when I see some artists that are on jury I ask them to help me figure out what else I need to do. I also understand that competitions are harder as the quality of the show improves. The question I should be asking is, what do I need to do to improve my presentation for the jury process and not think the process is unfair or biases.
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