Have you applied to a call for entries and your artwork was not selected? One of the many questions you ask yourself is why? What was the reason or reasons why your work was not selected? We decided to ask several Curators and Gallerists what happens during the selection process. Hopefully this will give you some insight into the jury process and help you plan for submitting in the future.
"I jury many exhibitions in the course of a year. Because of my experience I wanted to share just why artists are not accepted into exhibitions. I know the first inclination is to feel rejected when one receives the note that he or she didn’t get into an exhibit. There is more than meets the eye to the process of choosing images for exhibition. Before jumping to conclusions about your skill and talent try putting yourself in the shoes of the juror.
More than likely the juror has to choose a limited number of images for exhibition to fit in the exhibition space. Usually I am looking at 1000 (and sometimes 5 times that) image submissions and am tasked with choosing 20 to 50 photographs for the wall. Definitely there will be images the juror loves that have to go. I have found that usually in my first pass of choosing images that I respond to, I cull down imagery to about a third of what was submitted. My next pass is to look for images that speak to each other and I begin to form a narrative. It is very difficult to start a narrative over once it has begun. So sometimes it depends on what else is submitted that keeps your image out of the mix. For some (and that includes me) it is about the body of work and not the singular images.
Recently I did an experiment during the juried exhibition for the Griffin. The juror chose 60 images for the show and I went in after and built 3 shows from the remaining images. The fourth grouping I put together was weak. The second and third exhibits assembled were strong as anything and I would have been proud to showcase those two exhibits. Was the fourth exhibit weak because of a singular imagery? No, they were weak because the relationships just weren’t there.
Another reason your image may not make the cut into an exhibition may be that it doesn’t jive with the aesthetic of the juror. Another day and another juror will bring other results. So don’t give up.
Keep in mind that your submissions are not for nothing, even if you don’t get in to the show. It is an opportunity to get your work in front of the juror. Someday that will make a difference and an opportunity will rise.
There is one other reason why one doesn’t get into an exhibit. It has to do with craft. Is the photograph composed well? Is the subject of interest? Did your submissions show the maturity of your work in the edit you provided? Have you technically produced the best possible print you can? If you can’t do this yourself then do not hesitate to find a printer that can do this for you."
“I have been on many sides of the juried exhibition as an artist, a juror, and the administrator of juried shows. It is always disappointing to not be selected for an exhibition, but I think that some of the sting could be taken out of that disappointment if artists were more aware of the restrictions placed on jurors. The juror's job is to form a cohesive and thoughtful exhibition. For thematic exhibitions, jurors have to make tough decisions to exclude work that does not fit with their interpretation of the theme. Thematic shows are not "greatest hits" exhibitions and in my experience, similar subject matter means tough choices for the juror. Let's say that for a show about "flight" there are five submitted photographs of hot air balloons. They might all fit the theme and be excellent photographs, but the juror feels that only one or two hot air balloon photographs would be appropriate for the show. For exhibitions that are juried by a group rather than an individual, the selection process can become a game of averages. If each juror likes a piece it will likely be included in the show, but if one juror loves a piece and another juror is adamant about not including it, the selection process can result in a number of compromises. Logistical restrictions vary by venue, but the most common is a limit on the number of pieces that can be hung in the space. My advice for entering juried shows is to think carefully about whether the exhibition is juried by an individual or a group, whether your work is really a good fit for the theme, and to remember that there are many factors beyond the quality of work that might result in not being selected."
“When I am asked to jury an exhibit, I prefer that it is blind because I don't want to be influenced by knowing someone... I just want to respond to the work. I divide the work into 3 groups: no, maybe, yes. (the "yes" group, of course, are my favorites!)
After I've looked through the images at least 4 times to get these categories…I start to lay out the work to sequence a strong show. It's during this step that my selections may change. I want the strongest exhibit possible so I will go back to the "maybes" if needed and replace some of the "Yeses". Juried shows are often without a theme so sequencing is extremely important so it will all make sense.
I find it extremely rude that after putting together the exhibit and then meeting the artists at the opening that I am always asked "Why didn't you pick my work?" It’s obvious I didn't pick the work because it didn't fit or meet my criteria. “
"Decisions about art work are highly subjective. Whether or not someone likes your work is subjective, and then there is also the fact that the reviewer or juror may love your work but not have a slot in their space or scheduled to exhibit it. It may also be that your work doesn't fit precisely with the theme of the show that that person is curating. So you can't take it to personally. But what I can offer in terms of advice for submitting to juried shows or sharing work with portfolio reviewers is: To present works that reflect a cohesive and clear vision or message and choose images carefully to support it. Sometimes when I jury, I find myself confused because I may be looking at 8 prints from the same series, but they appear unrelated. I think sometimes people want to submit their strongest prints, but they might be showing 8 really strong statements that don't fit together. It might be better to choose 5 strong images and 3 that help tell the story even if they're not all singularly compelling. Essentially, when you show your work to someone, particularly for the first time, you are a storyteller. And people like stories, so tell that story in a clear and engaging fashion! In approaching your work in this fashion, you also demonstrate that you know what you're doing and why and can relate to others-- always a plus."
“Instances vary from my perspective. I look at thousands of photographs each year at portfolio review events, art fairs, through various emails and marketing materials that that I receive from artists, and through emerging artists that I mentor. The three main things that I look for is:
1.) Does the photographs fit into a theme or an idea for an upcoming show that I might be curating?
2.) How well do the prints look?
3.) How unique is the artist’s vision?
As a gallery owner, I am the one who comes up with the themes for the exhibitions. That being said, I usually keep a running list of ideas known only to myself. If I see work at an portfolio review event, art fair, or if someone tells me about a particular artist whose work fits in with my themes, I will keep their info in a spreadsheet based on the type of work that they make. That way, when I have enough artists who make work that fit into my theme, then I will contact them and schedule the show.
As for prints, I scrutinize print quality both from a gallery owner and collector’s perspective. The artists need to know how to print. I cannot chance putting up a bad gelatin silver print or digital print next to someone else in the gallery who is a master printer. Collectors know good from bad, and if they see poorly produced art, they won’t come back to the gallery, and they will not buy your work, and neither will I. If I don’t think a print is up to my standards, I usually suggest that they contact my friends at Panopticon Imaging to assist them.
Lastly, collectors have a discerning eye when it comes to acquiring art––and gallery owners know that. They want to see unique photographs––things that they have never seen before. Now, we all know that in this day and age, that is pretty impossible, but sometimes you’ll find that needle in a haystack and you’ll want to include it into a show as soon as possible. Photographers. . . . . . .think outside of the frame.
"Building a show is like writing an essay; certain photographs form sentences while others create tangents when viewed together. Starting with a pool of (typically) over 500 images, my process is to make pairings of images and witness the story change as new images are introduced. Jurying a show does not always mean the juror selects their personal favorites; there have been times where I've purchased prints that did not get awards or make the final cut for the exhibition."
"It was incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to jury our Danforth Art Annual last summer. Due to changes in the structure of the exhibition (we combined two exhibitions into one); the show was about half the size of previous years. We generally have almost 500 on-line applications, and each artist can submit up to three works, so jurying is a daunting process. I was proud of every work in the exhibition, but there were plenty of entries that I couldn’t take, but wanted to. Instead, I made note of the artist for the future (our juried exhibition is a blind jury, so this happened after choices were made, once I could see the names associated with each application). Our juried exhibition takes place in a finite number of galleries, and as you start to review applications, certain themes emerge, and the show starts to form. Groupings for each gallery start to come together before the works arrive. Trying to create a cohesive juried exhibition means that some works, no matter how accomplished and innovative, end up not fitting into the exhibition structure. A juror wants to be sure that each work in an exhibition stands on its own, and has plenty of room to breathe, but it also needs to compliment the works around it. However, it is imperative to remain sensitive to the fact that when an artist submits their work to a juried exhibition they are putting themselves out there, and sharing their work with you, and it is a privilege to be a part of that process. "