Are open exhibitions worth it?

2011 - Cathy Read Art - The Heart of a vision- 30 x 40 cm - Mixed Media

Every artist enters an Open exhibition at some time or other.

2011 - Cathy Read Art - The Heart of a vision- 30 x 40 cm - Mixed Media
2011 – Cathy Read Art – The Heart of a vision- 30 x 40 cm – Mixed Media – £230

If not they at least think about it. Seduced by the benefits of winning, artists see them as the way to success. Myself included.

But, I’ve been questioning the effectiveness of such efforts in recent months.

It started following my unsuccessful entry into this years Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

Finding this article chrystalised my thoughts.  Swarez’s arguements may be blunt. But he has several points.

Open exhibitions are a lottery.

Yes, there are steps you can take to increase your chances. But you cannot guarantee the judges will like your art over others. Taste in Art is completely subject!

In other words…

It’s a form of gambling!

I prefer to have more control over my career.

I don’t do lotteries! I’m not even happy to buy raffle tickets.

Any artist’s priority must be getting their work seen once it’s created.

And there’s no doubt being accepted in an Open Exhibition helps your career.

The benefits of acceptance are tantalisingly good.

Take the Royal Academy’s Prestigious Summer Exhibition.

It costs £50 for 2 entries. That doesn’t include the cost of delivery (and collection if you’re rejected).

But the odds of being selected are slim! This year, there were 13,000 entries. And yet Royal Academicians made a good 2/3rds of the exhibits.

Being rejected is no reflection on the quality of your work!

The Art World is a massively subjective! The judges like what they like. If your work does not appeal…

And most artists submit to numerous Open Calls…

But are there better ways?

Than spending your money hoping X people will like your art enough to feature it in an exhibition?

Charles Saatchi is a major player in the Art World.

His background?…


I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Clever marketing strategies are behind the big players in the Art World.

Maybe I should find a big project that I can market and get press coverage? But before that there are small things I can do.

For example…

Print 100 postcards of my artwork for price my RA Submission!.

Then post them to people I’ve met through work or networking meetings. Meaning 100 targeted people will get to see my work. People who may know someone who could give me an opportunity.

Sure, if my work is accepted it would be thousands. But that’s a big IF!

But postcards are just one action I could take. Sites like Making a Mark, Art Biz Blog, Artsy Shark all have stacks of guidance for budding Artist Entrepreneurs! Not to mention all the marketing expertise out there!

So, what do you thing of Open Calls!

Worth the money?





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4 Replies to “Are open exhibitions worth it?”

  1. As always a thought provoking article Cathy.

    I think the smaller opens would be better value as is your mailing postcards, but I think the allure of a biggee like the RA will always outway the alternative use of money.

    1. Thanks Sue, Sadly, You may be right about the lure of the RA. I certainly felt that way when I decided on pursuing an art career. But I wonder how many people rely on such things and eventually become so disillusioned they abandon otherwise promising art careers?

  2. Great article Cathy. I feel the same way (as you know!)… The RA is regrettably the least open of these Open Call events. In recent years it has become even more closed off to the ordinary artist in the street.

    Marketing is the only way to reach an audience – the larger the better because your chances grow pro-rata.

    I have targeted more niche areas these days and a little persistence and a dose of cheekiness does pay dividends. Whilst the Summer Exhibition is a great opportunity for some I don’t need it anymore.

    Thanks for posting a link back to my post too; very much appreciated!

    1. Thanks Swarez! Glad to post the link, I found your article very thought provoking when I read it. Glad to hear you doing so well. Think you’re further down the line than I am but I’m developing the cheekiness! Has to be done the right way to succeed I find.

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