How open is an Open Exhibition?
From award winning art blogger, Katherine Tyrrell's 'MAKING A MARK' :
"Below I take a look at "how open is open" and explain why I'll be counting and changing my reviews of open art exhibitions in 2017.
View of an open art exhibition at the Mall Galleries
Reviewing "how open is open?" - an innovation for 2017
The purpose of an open entry
The open entry to an annual exhibition organised by an art society provides:
the art society with its life blood of future members.
a stimulus to some 'resting' members to raise their game
a venue for emerging artists to raise the profile of their art and interest both galleries and art collectors
What an open entry art exhibition is not
The open entry is NOT a cash cow - used primarily to subsidise an exhibition of members' work. If it is treated as such - or appears to artists to be used as such - then it
diminishes the credibility of the society and verges on deceit
attracts adverse and critical comment; and
credible future members will be more inclined to market their artwork elsewhere - online and/or with other open exhibitions/competitions which are much more transparent as to the chances of being selected.
How serious is an art society about its open exhibition?
Speaking personally, an open exhibition for me should be:
broadly speaking 50:50 (members:open).
60:40 is OK but could be improved
whereas 75:25 (and worse) is NOT and needs action.
Others may have other views.
My notion of the right sort of ratio is based on
the notion that an annual exhibition need not be the only exhibition an art society holds - and other exhibitions can be member only.
if you describe something as an open exhibition then that needs to be a dominant characteristic of the exhibition - otherwise the Advertising Standards Authority might have something to say.
From a consumer perspective there are some key indicators of how serious an art society is about making its annual exhibition genuinely open. These are very easy to observe online - before, during and after an exhibition.
I look to see whether or not the society:
has a website page dedicated to the exhibition
makes sure its exhibition page is current and up to date
gives artists plenty of notice of deadlines and requirements of entries
sells the benefits of exhibiting with the society OR just focuses on the terms and conditions of entry.
uses social media to remind people about the exhibition - and shows people the work done by its artist members
Bottom line, a number of art societies have some considerable work they need to do to convey they are serious about their open exhibitions.
However I'd like to highlight two art societies which do well with respect to their website information for non-members:
The Royal Society of Marine Artists - had its annual exhibition in October 2016 and already has on its website a comprehensive and excellent page about its exhibition in October 2017
The Society of Women Artists - has been managing change in how it operates in recent times. It still has scope to improve but I noted two important changes:
a major improvement in how it communicates how the open entry works to non-members - and what details it will be posting about the exhibition as works are selected and prizes awarded.
It's also hiring the whole of the Mall Galleries for one week - which greatly increases its scope to accept entries from non-members.
RSMA Open Exhibition 2016 - in the Threadneedle Space at the Mall Galleries
Why open exhibitions need to change
There have been a number of changes in the last 11 years that I've been writing this blog
Emerging artists now have many more opportunities to market their art direct to the art buyer/ collector than they did some 10-15 years ago
the entry process for open exhibitions has changed and become much more accessible. Digital entry is now the norm.
the number of open entry artworks selected and hung seem to reduced quite significantly in some of the open exhibitions I review. I'm not entirely sure why this is. It's maybe related to the fact that some societies have downsized the exhibition to make it more economical to run - but without maintaining the artworks hung ratio of members to open entries. Their focus seems to have been on keeping members happy in the short term rather than on the long term well-being of the Society (see below).
It seems to me that some of the basic concepts and processes underpinning "the Open Exhibition" need to be revisited, reviewed and updated to keep them very relevant to those who aspire to become professional artists - and future members of the art societies. The need to have a "business rethink" is particularly relevant to those societies with an ageing profile of members (and both they and I know who they are!) These are the societies that have a critical need to create a strategy to:
sustain the art society over time
maintain a better balance of members across the age ranges
grow volunteers within its member base to enable more active exhibiting by the society - in galleries and online
That in essence means working towards enlarging the open entry not diminishing it! Younger and more digitally active/aware artists need to become members!
The need to be more transparent
So I've decided to create a bit of a stimulus by starting to count and analyse the open entries in a systematic and transparent way i.e. I'll publish the numbers. Many of the art competitions are now completely explicit now as to the:
number of entries received
number of ent