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Evolution of Juried Art Exhibitions in a Digital Age

The Juried Art process that we know today was morphed over thousands of years, with its roots deep in the great civilizations of Ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome. The medium du jour was focused on sculpture, architecture and, to a lesser degree, painting. A tincture of time would provide for the development of a sophisticated process that would eventually create an atmosphere for inclusion and exclusion of art works and even the artists that created them. The system would create an aura of reputation that artists would come to depend on to generate sales and justify prices they would garner from sales resulting from the exhibitions.Art exhibitions have purpose. They provide a display of the style and technique of contributing artists and the trends the arts are taking. Over years they helped define the general periods in art form that have been measured in history. The types of exhibition are:• Open Exhibitions
• Invitational Exhibitions
• Juried ExhibitionsThe come one come all format of an Open Exhibit was filled with many art forms and varying degrees of artistic talent. An Invitational Exhibit found fewer works and attendees but frequently a more critical consumer. A Juried Exhibit allowed only those artists or works that were approved for the exhibit by an expert individual or group of expert “jurors”. All exhibition formats play a distinct part in the world of art and have proved beneficial to artists and to the viewing and buying public.It was during the 18th and 19th Centuries that art exhibitions came to full bloom. Primarily in France and England art exhibitions were found to be thriving in Salons, Academies and Museums. This fashionable and aristocratic environment continued into the U.S. in the early 20th Century. The exhibitions of the arts were to become embedded in modern society and now were a significant source of revenue for artists, collectors and art traders.The logistical challenges of getting to the art were, at the time, enormous. Soon to become the salvation of this dilemma was the advancing technology in modern photography. What became of the art of photography was now the photography of the art. Photos of art work were a relatively fast and efficient way to view art around the world. The quality in the photographic process was such that exhibits could be seen without the need of traveling to them. By the late 20th Century digital photography and personal computing had taken the art exhibition even a step further. Digitization of photographs of art works allows presentation to be manually manipulated to achieve perfection in appearance.Online art exhibitions come in many different formats and venues, from the viewing of the classics to online marketplaces abounding with the arts and crafts of entrepreneurial artists and artisans. It is here that the quality and presentation are critical. In a world teeming with art, art products and visual arts it is apparent that we have drawn a crowd. A very large crowd.This is the order of the digital age. Best estimates are that over 100 billion live websites are out there, so finding a quality artisan marketplace may require a degree of resourcefulness on the part of art critics and consumers. And then to find the right art product…good luck!So, how do the artists and crafters find their way to market? A perfect example is the Online Handmade Industry where there are a number of notable and shoppable sites to explore. The ease in presentation on the web has made it relatively simple to place art works and crafts before the consuming public and hence to the cash register. Electronic advances and the accessibility of the internet have attracted millions of buyers, many who shop exclusively on the WWW. Plus the attraction of the Online Handmade Industry (OHI) depends on art works and crafts to be handmade, thereby guaranteeing a “one of a kind” inventory mentality.The OHI is not without problems. The handmade aspect in some cases is without warrant and there have been reports of “Re-Sellers” making their way into handmade marketplaces. This practice involves an “artist/seller” purchasing an item elsewhere and then presenting it as handmade, which it is not, on an unsuspecting website. So big is this problem is that a large number of legitimate handmade artists have given up on some of the “Open Exhibition” sites in favor of “Juried” sites. A Juried site, like a Juried Exhibition, maintain a degree of exclusivity by a jury of experts previewing art works by particular artist before they are allowed to place works on the site.The practice of juried art is beneficial to both the artist and the consumer. The artists benefit by the site maintaining the integrity of the handmade concept and the inherent quality provided by the process, plus the sheer numbers of competing works are restricted by the exclusive design of a juried site. Consumers benefit by knowing the artists they shop have been pre-screened.The nature and scope of the internet is such that what may be a relevant search result is difficult for the buyer to achieve. Understanding how the search engines work is important but the reality is the average buyer just wants to see what they are looking for. Presence on a Juried site helps accomplish this. Another way to look at this is what I call “Culling the Herd”. This is the process of weeding out less desirable elements in whatever your “Herd” consists of.Juried sites are both inclusive and exclusive. Artisans seek to be included in an exclusive environment, and they do so consciously. A Juried marketplace will send a message of quality and unique value of art products and visual arts. The ultimate benefit is being a part of something special and that will result in increased consumer loyalty and return frequency.The old cliché “There’s safety in numbers” is not always the case. The successful artist/artisan markets to their market in a manner that is exclusive by design. The bottom line…Don’t run with the pack!By Dennis Speer