STATEMENT ON EXHIBITION VENUES
The CAA Guidelines for Retention and Tenure of Art and Design Faculty state, “Exhibition and/or peer-reviewed public presentation of creative work is to be regarded as analogous to publication in other fields.” In addition, the Guidelines for Professional Practices for Artists address “general ethical and professional best practices” and play a pedagogical role in advising artists in the areas of studio production, copyright protection, gallery contracts, sales and commissions. The role of various types of artistic exhibitions as a legitimate and noteworthy form of scholarship touches upon both these sets of guidelines. Peer review in the form of the exhibition of creative work can include juried shows, curated and invitational exhibitions, and membership in exhibiting artist cooperatives and collectives, and other venues.
The responsibility for the assessment of all types of exhibition venues lies primarily with the disciplinary specialists in the appropriate academic unit in art. Other administrative offices or committees that comprise part of the review process should acknowledge such professional evaluation. Best practices in expectations for exhibition, as outlined in CAA’s Guidelines for Retention and Tenure of Art and Design Faculty, state that “issues of national, regional, and local recognition must be clarified at institutions that make those distinctions, as these expressions do not hold universal meaning.” Specific institutional standards for retention, tenure, and promotion should contain clear statements on the value and role of exhibitions as a form of peer-reviewed scholarship that are consistent with college/university-wide practices and policies. If an academic institution requires national and international recognition, then it should also provide appropriate funding to enable such activities, for example, through support for travel expenses, the crating and shipping of artwork, and entry fees. In addition, from the perspectives of both the artist and the exhibition venue, best practices for exhibition of creative work need to take into consideration the payment of jury or other fees, the related expenses artists are expected to bear, and the length, timing, and location of shows.
TYPES OF PEER-REVIEWED EXHIBITIONS
Juried Shows: The term “juried show” has a specific meaning in studio art. Typically juried shows involve open calls for submissions of artwork along with an entry fee. One or more reviewers will have been invited to act as juror/jury; these reviewers could be artists, art historians, critics, or gallery/museum professionals. The juror/jury selects a limited number of submitted works—based on their perceived quality and/or relationship to particular criteria or themes—to be included in the exhibition. Sometimes individual artists or artworks are singled out for awards, which may include cash prizes. Juried shows are more common in some artistic media (e.g., printmaking and ceramics) than others (e.g., sculptural installation and performance). Juried shows may be held in “brick and mortar” galleries and museums as well as in digital and printed venues.
Curated and Invitational Shows: Curated and invitational shows may occur in a variety of venues ranging from commercial galleries to museums. These exhibitions often do not involve an open call for submission of individual works. Instead, gallery/museum professionals or faculty members of a college/university exhibition committee develop an exhibition concept and proceed to assemble a show based upon that vision. Entry fees are not charged, although at times artists might be asked to contribute to the cost of shipping, advertising, printing, or personal travel. These exhibitions might be supported by private funds or sales (as in the case of commercial galleries), project grants, or an institution’s operating budget. Sometimes the participating artist is offered an honorarium, which might be used to defray expenses. In the case of commercial galleries, a percentage of the sales is taken by the gallery as commission. In the case of nonprofit galleries, there might be a small commission or no commission whatsoever. Curated and invitational shows are common in all artistic media. Shows might be held in “brick and mortar” galleries and museums, as well as digital and printed venues.
Sometimes a curated or invitational show is generated by an artist’s proposal. These proposals could be in response to an invitation by a curator or an open call from an institution soliciting exhibition ideas, or they could take the form of an unsolicited proposal. Such proposals may also be accompanied by a funding proposal. The format for proposals can vary greatly, but it usually involves the submission of a portfolio, a résumé or CV, and a written description of the planned exhibition. Most often, these types of exhibitions take place in nonprofit or college/university galleries and museums. The proposals are peer reviewed by arts professionals associated with the exhibiting institution (museum or gallery curators, critics, college/university faculty). There is usually no application fee involved, and the sponsoring institutions usually supply a certain amount of financial and in-kind support.
Artists’ Collectives, Cooperatives, and Professional Societies: Artists’ collectives, cooperatives, and professional societies are owned and administered by artistic professionals. The portfolios and CVs of potential members are peer reviewed at the time of application. These organizations should not be confused with vanity galleries, which do not usually involve peer review and function as consignment shops for artwork. Once accepted into the group, the artist members assume the cost of operating the gallery. Sales commissions typically range from nothing to a relatively nominal percentage. A growing number of professional communities organize virtually with a primarily web-based presence.
RECOMMENDED BEST PRACTICES
• It is ultimately the artist/s’ responsibility to research prospective exhibitions and venues. Factors to consider include: the reputation of the juror; the reputation, physical facilities, and public exposure of the institution; whether the venue will publish a catalogue or a brochure; the potential for awards and public recognition versus the expenses associated with the exhibition; and the responsibilities of the artist/s versus those of the exhibiting institution.
• The exhibiting institution should provide a prospectus that clearly outlines the application procedure and the respective responsibilities of the venue and the artists should they be accepted. Accepted artists should be provided with a written agreement that clearly outlines the respective responsibilities of the venue and the artists.
• Jurors should be professionals in the field and judging should be conducted in a fair and unbiased manner.
• Exhibitions should be scheduled in the venue’s standard display space and during regular gallery seasons, which will differ according to geographical location.
• While artwork is in the possession of the exhibition venue, it should be insured by the exhibition venue against theft, loss, and damage.
• If colleges and universities wish that their faculty submit to and participate in these types of peer-reviewed shows, the institutions should also be willing to financially support the payment of jury fees and other associated costs.
• Both the use of entry fees and their cost to artists have increased considerably over the past four decades. While some artists’ organizations have opposed the charging of entry fees, others have considered it a necessary cost of doing business as other sources of arts funding become increasingly scarce. A nominal entry fee is reasonable if a nonprofit institution (such as a college/university gallery, an alternative art space, or an artist-run organization) is mounting the exhibition. “Hanging” or “participation” fees for accepted artists are viable alternatives. Entry fees in commercial or for-profit venues are strongly discouraged. Funds from entry fees should be used to defray basic exhibition costs. They should not be used as a direct means of awarding cash prizes or as a profit-making venture for the exhibiting institution. In order to keep entry costs at a minimum, every effort should be made by the sponsoring organization to find external funding.
Curated and Invitational Shows:
• The above guidelines for juried shows—minus the references to entry fees and jurors —apply equally to curated and invitational exhibitions.
• Best practices for curated and invitational shows in commercial art galleries are covered in “Section V. Exhibition and Sale of Artwork” of CAA’s Guidelines for Professional Practices for Artists.
• For nonprofit institutions such as college/university galleries, museums, or alternative art spaces, there may be a variety of practices based upon the specifics of each venue.
• If an artist-generated exhibition proposal is in response to an individual solicitation or an open call, the application procedure and the respective responsibilities of the venue and the artist should be clearly outlined. Accepted proposals should be followed by a written agreement that defines the respective responsibilities in further detail.
Artists’ Collectives, Cooperatives, and Professional Societies:
• It is understood that there will be a variety of practices based upon the history, purpose, and particularities of each group. Depending upon the organization’s legal status (i.e., incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, as a 501(c)7 membership club, or as an unincorporated association), different operating rules might apply.
• Every effort should be made to make the application and review process for new members clear, as well as the benefits, responsibilities, and costs involved if the artist is selected for membership. Documentation that explains the organizational structure should be provided to all prospective members.
Other Types of Exhibition Opportunities:
• Art fairs and events such as biennial/triennial exhibitions, both commercial and alternative, provide venues for profit-making, nonprofit, and self-initiated exhibitions. In terms of recommended best practices, such venues should be subject to the same criteria as traditional ones. Whether or not individual exhibitions are peer reviewed should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
• Commissions for the creation of new artwork can be considered yet another form of exhibition. Again, peer review should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Public commissions are usually peer reviewed by a selection committee that includes arts professionals; private commissions may or may not entail such a review process. Recommended best practices are covered in “Section VI. Contracts for Public and Private Art Commission” of CAA’s Guidelines for Professional Practices for Artists.
• Some exhibitions form a component of an artist residency. Considerations to be taken into account when assessing such residencies are outlined in the section “Evaluation of Artist-in-Residencies” in CAA’s Guidelines for Retention and Tenure of Art and Design Faculty.
• Digital artworks, many of them multimedia in nature (video, animation, design and graphic artworks, interactive arts, etc.) can often be exhibited online more successfully than in a traditional “brick and mortar” gallery/museum setting. Therefore, it is appropriate for those media to utilize online exhibitions. Internet venues should be subject to the same criteria as traditional venues.
• Other forms of scholarly creative activity may not fall into traditional categories. Collaborative art, performance art, community art projects, public art in new genres, or art that is designed to be intentionally temporal or ephemeral may all be considered as valid forms of artistic production. Some artists’ work may also engage political and social activism and cross into the realm of social practice. These alternative forms often appear in non-art venues and should be evaluated individually based upon the work’s impact on the community, reporting in the press, critical reviews, and other means deemed appropriate by professionals in the field.
- College Art Association:
- National Artists Equity Association
- Boston Visual Artists’ Union
Respectfully submitted by the Ad Hoc Committee: Juried Shows and Assessment of Exhibition Venues: Susan Altman, Associate Professor of Art, Dept. of Visual, Performing, and Media Arts, Middlesex County College; Tom Berding, Associate Professor of Art, Dept. of Art, Art History, and Design, Michigan State University; Ario Elami, artist, MFA (2013), Tufts and School of the MFA Boston; Clarissa Gregory, Adjunct Professor of Art, Community College of Baltimore County; Jason Lahr, Assistant Professor of Art, Dept. of Art, Art History, and Design, University of Notre Dame; Virginia Maksymowicz (committee chair), Associate Professor of Art, Dept. of Art and Art History, Franklin and Marshall College; Kristin Powers Nowlin, Instructor and Gallery Coordinator, Southeast Missouri State University; Katherine Sullivan, Associate Professor of Art, Dept. of Art and Art History, Hope College; Joe Thomas, Professor of Art History and Adjunct Curator, Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw State University