Art comps? hard pass.

Art competitions are a large part of getting your work seen, and a great way to building confidence. Are paid competitions really worth it? And why do artists have to pay to get their work shown? Surely they should pay you for the privilege.

Sure, maybe there’s a big first prize, but realistically, what’s the chance of winning?

A few costs you have to cover to enter:

• Entry fees

• Framing costs

• Professional scan or photo 

• Transport costs to submit and collect your work

• Insurance

Whether it’s an entry for an online magazine, a print publication, a social media site, blog, gallery, juried show, whatever, a lot of artists aren’t willing to fork out money to get their work seen.

Why?

An actor doesn’t have to pay for an audition, so why should artists have to pay for them? With fully fledged galleries, if the gallery is as good as it claims (or its testimonials/profile/social media seems to imply) then why does it need your meager $35 to accept an electronic submission? There are administration fees, but very little else until a piece of art is accepted. Online galleries don’t have hanging costs, logistics, and probably far fewer staff and curators. I believe these galleries can afford to accept free submissions, as they should generate enough sales from the competition winners themselves. If not, maybe they need better jurors or PR.

Very few art competitions have any national coverage. They are niche events and the audience is mostly made up of other artists. As far as sales, you will have a tough time converting that exposure into cash. And that’s the problem with these ‘prestigious’ events. They are organizing the event to promote themselves. It’s not for you, it’s for them, and that makes anyone who isn’t the winner inconsequential. If networking with other artists isn’t even guaranteed, what’s the point?

Anyone who attends an art show soon questions the selection process. It’s another world. You do not know if your style of art is going to be acceptable or fashionable with the judges. They come with their own insecurities and baggage. It’s all so arbitrary.

How does that do anything positive for an artist? And if you get a ‘prize’ does that mean you were better than the rest? Of course not. Ever heard of a winner being discovered and going on to great things? Maybe there are some, but I don’t know of any. Art contests are irrelevant for most of us, because there’s only one winner. That’s a limiting factor. The winner takes all. The organizers exploit artists with the deceit that they have a genuine chance of winning and allay their fears with that other great lie–EXPOSURE. In return, you are supposed to be thankful for the opportunity to submit your work, for a fee, of course, and be grateful.

Doesn’t take long to wise up.

No matter how good you are, it pays to be vigilant.

If you want to be taken seriously, forget the false hope of these competitions. No one is going to discover your hidden talents. It’s a roll of the dice, and that sums it up nicely, you’re gambling, nothing more, and the only winners are the guys holding the competition. You’d be far better off investing your time and money in promoting yourself online or at an art fair.

Work hard and promote yourself.