No Prizes No Jury


 I was reading a Facebook post where a friend was complaining about a jury turning her away for a third time. I recalled the cry of the French artists in the 19th century French artists against the academy "No Juries No Prizes". I didn't comment since I've had my share of awful reactions to jury rejections. Indeed if possible I avoid juries because it does seem very capricious and reactionary as a means to discern quality or provide opportunities for artists. I tried fo a long while to show my work at the Institute of Arts in particular my portraits and I was turned away several times by an artist jury. I was very impoverished at the time and these rejections were very painful and I felt it was personl to the extent that members of juries have judged my work unfairly for reasons that had nothing to do with art and everything to do with the art politics of the jury. I'm old enough now that I don't have to do such things to exhibit or sell my work but I do think a new means needs to be developed to create exhibitions that doesn't depend on a jury's opinion.

 The exhibition program at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts was based on a concept concieved by Walter Hopps and artists in California of bringing artists together by fiding groups of artists who felt a kinship with other artists. These artists were put in groups that exhibited similarities of approach and ideas. Over many years the Minnesota program has become a hybrid of this original idea so much so as to be a return to a jury with a curatorial director rather than a coordinator. The present situation is a sort of quasi-curatorial process. The results have been much less diverse and less inventive than in the past. Indeed what has happened is the whole structure seems more and more to produce shows that while professional in appearence lack originality or risk. This maybe in keeping with the idea that the conservative museum isn't as comfortable as it once was with showing living artists from the region. Now the gallery is hidden deep in the museum not on the normal traffic patterns where as before it was in the front of the museum in prime space on the second floor.

 To some extent this has been the case throughout my experience that the living artist is a bit of a nuisance to the museums. Like any professional activity a few people succeed and many fail. And the focus is always on the stars as in sports. But while museums have hundreds of prints and works by say Frank Stella they have nothing at all or very little by artists with less canonical brands.This may just be the world and how the world has always been but juries and prizes don't change this situation. What changes things is great ideas and new criterion. Perhaps the struggle museums face to become something more than they are could be at the base of a solution. What do we want? We want To let the flowers bloom we want the art of the living to be on an equal footing with the antique and historical art that museums preserve and display. And it maybe that the struggle is ongoing and that juries are not the answer. But for now the distortion is the message and the answer may come long after our work becomes antique.