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Art Prizes Suck

PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:57 pm
by CAP
I swore I would never enter another. Not that I've ever entered that many, mostly I could see through the artworld politics of them, but the more I thought about it the more ridiculous the whole criterion became: what exactly was it that was being judged? How do you compare paintings of different things? Much less paintings with prints or three-dimensional work (installations as well as sculptures)? It's like comparing Tuesday and a piece of string. Pointless.

To quote one of my favourite philosophers - "Art is not a race. Picking winners is not the point."

But anyway, talking with a dealer and hoping to impress him that I'm an on-going concern (although it's been many years since I showed solo and ahem, I am getting on, unfortunately...) I rashly agreed to enter a minor drawing prize he mentioned. So what constitutes drawing? Well according to the bumpf that accompanies the entry form (a downloadable PDF, natch) a drawing is anything that isn't a print. I think you'll agree this is a fairly generous definition allowed by the (minor) public gallery director organising the whole thing. Under this definition, a painting is a 'drawing'.

But leaving aside technicalities, what will constitute a 'good' or excellent drawing? A quick glance at past winners (there weren't that many - the prize is quite a recent fixture) is predictably dispiriting. It's not just that the stuff is plainly crap, but it's crap from an all too familiar artist, and the award clearly the work of his influential lobby. As I say, right off you can always see the politics of these supposed 'contests'. The deal is first you send in JPGs and an entry fee and if selected for the exhibition, then you get them framed and get them to the gallery. In my case this will entail a fair bit of travelling. Actually I think I would prefer to be eliminated at the JPG round, at least that won't entail the additional expenses of framing and transportation. And I'm comfortable with my work not even making the ball park, as they say. Being right off the radar.

But so far all I've done is send off the JPGs, so I'll report on how it went next month when I'm supposed to be notified (by email I expect).


Re: Art Prizes Suck

PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 4:15 pm
by jasperjoffe
yes they do, especially high entry fees, tax on losers for winners. But they're one of the few lotteries available for becoming a success!

Re: Art Prizes Suck

PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 3:39 pm
by CAP

Re: Art Prizes Suck

PostPosted: Fri Mar 09, 2012 6:03 pm
by jasperjoffe
"declare conflict of interest", that's unusual. Normal art world practice is a confluence of interest.

Re: Art Prizes Suck

PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:25 am
by CAP
Well I got my wish and my entries did not make the cut for the final exhibition, which will consist of 70 drawings. At least I’m saved the expense of getting the things framed and transporting them on what would have been about a 200 mile round-trip (twice if I had delivered and then collected them). Think of just the petrol money, much less fares on public transport and which would take simply A G E S. That’s the upside.

But just to go back to JJ’s point about fees, let’s do the sums in very round figures. The rejection letter claims there were thousands of entries, so let’s say there were 2000 entries, each paid around £40 an entry, making a total income of £80,000 for the organisers. From this we can deduct say £8,000 for the prize money (I’m being generous), leaving £72,000 for administration costs, which I think you’ll agree are unlikely to be anything like that. Say the judge (a minor painter and academic) is paid for a couple of weeks for the pre-selection weeding-out. That might come to, say, £3,000. Actually the logistics of trying to view thousands of JPGs with any degree of scrutiny is a little problematic, no matter how you look at it. And she may not even have been involved at that level, may only be called upon to judge the final 70 works – this a much quicker exercise since the works are then all properly displayed in the gallery. All she has to do is point to one, after due pause. No justifications are required, which is probably just as well. At best that might be a day’s work, perhaps a couple of extra days to cover the opening formalities. Let’s say that might come to £5000, probably much less. Then let’s assume the budget for promotion and hospitalities might run to around £5,000 at most, given the modest scale of the operation. This leaves a clear profit for the organisers around £62,000 which is a pretty tidy annual profit for a minor provincial gallery, plus it acquires the winning work into the bargain. So if a ‘name’ artist takes out the gong, there may well be other agendas playing out there…

Obviously these art prizes are good business, in the short term.

Just for the record, my entries were Boutique Terrorism and Home Myths (both February 2012, lead pencil on paper, 76 X 56 cm).

The rest of that series of drawings is here.

Oh and as a postcript - added 10th May - The prize winning drawing (chosen from what turned out to be a final 76) is here

Tee hee.....

Re: Art Prizes Suck

PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2012 10:01 am
by CAP
With bitter irony , I was just emailed a reminder about this.