OK, let’s talk first about shows/fairs that are juried, then talk
about jury fees.
When I first began to exhibit at shows, when I was but a wee embryo
of a jeweler, I showed where I could. non-juried shows, that is,
shows that did not use a jury panel separate from the promoter of
the show. What I found was that there was ‘stuff’ sold at those
shows that was, at the least, buy/sell, and at the most, assembled
work, as opposed to fabricated by the exhibitor. Additionally, there
was lots of really awful, badly manufactured offshore stuff. Because
work like that can be sold very inexpensively, I had a very hard
time convincing customers of the value of my work. This was true
across the media at these shows.
It’s confusing for customers to see such a mix at a show. It’s
necessary for customers to be informed by what they see, in order
for them to really understand the value. If there’s a wide range of
quality, from poor to fine, it can be confusing. Plus, if a customer
group has paid to enter the show, it becomes necessary to justify
that expense by, you got it, spending more, bringing home something
from the show. If there’s merchandise that is very inexpensive (read
that as imported, badly made, etc.), that will satisfy that need.
Conversely, if there is no customer admission fee, there is no urge
to buy anything (although you would think there would be an attitude
that, if I got in free, then I have money to spend. NOT).
I’m not implying that the true collector is undiscerning, I’m just
suggesting that non-juried shows do not attract that collector. I
would rather be at a show where most or all of the work has been
vetted by a competent jury. The assumption is that my work will be
in good company, surrounded by work that is of a similar quality
I also prefer to apply to shows where the members of the jury are
known in the field to have a level of expertise that warrants their
presence on the jury, for example, museum directors, gallery owners,
one’s peers, curators, art center directors, etc.
Now, let’s talk about jury fees. If the level of quality at a show
is to be consistent, both in construction and sensibility, then
shows/exhibitions need to be juried. The application/jury/entry fees
for shows like that ought to cover the cost of: travel for jurors
(not needed so much today with digital options); payment of the
juror (you wouldn’t want to be asked to do YOUR work for free, would
you?.. the juror ought to be paid for her/his earned and developed
expertise); administrative expense of the promoter/gallery (YOUR
time and any effort would be worth something wouldn’t it?), which
would include formatting images (and for some shows this could be
thousands of images) for electronic distribution or discs.
Sometimes the jury is made up solely of one’s peers, even fellow
exhibitors, who are paid in-kind, that is, they may be offered a
free booth at the show, or may be exempted from the jury process
(makes sense). In that case, the fee should reflect a less costly
jurying process, shouldn’t it. Sometimes, even though the show
advertises itself as ‘juried’, it is only juried by the promoter,
with perhaps an exhibitor(s) advisor. In this case, one would expect
that the fee would simply be an application fee, reflecting the
administrative costs only. This may or may not occur.
It really does appear to be that promoters of the more desirable
juried shows inflate the application fees based on the perceived
importance of the shows. Granted, the sheer quantity of the
applications to those shows requires correlative administrative time
and expense, even when now, almost all applications are sent
electronically on-line. It is an enormous task. However, it may not
be that the fee is inflated, but that the quality of the jurors
experience warrants a juror’s compensation equal to that experience.
That is, the more ‘important’ the show, the more ‘important’ the
juror(s), the more likely the show is to attract quality exhibitors,
the more likely the show is to attract collectors of quality work,
the more justification there is to have a high application fee.
And the above holds true as well for gallery exhibitions for which
there is competition for inclusion, as opposed to an invitational
exhibition. A jury that is perceived to possess admirable
credentials should attract, not only high quality applicants, but
knowledgeable collectors who appreciate work of that quality. What
you pay for with your application fee is: the reassurance that your
work will be surrounded by work of similar quality; that the juror’s
name will recognizable to collectors; that collectors will
appreciate the effect of the juror’s discerning eye. In other words,
your work will be in an environment that supports the sale of it.
That’s the bottom line. you want your work to sell.
Back to the fees themselves. We, as potential exhibitors, would like
to know that the fees we pay actually go towards the jurying
process. Unfortunately there is no way that any show promoter is
going to reveal where those monies are applied. We will never know
how those monies are applied, even if we ask a promoter for specific
We may have to just assume that the jury fees are
applied to supporting the jury process, and the jury process only. I
know, I know. to ‘assume’ means making an ass of u and me. and maybe
it does in this case. But if a promoter or gallery owner does
her/his job, in spite of keeping us in the dark about where the fees
go, by doing the job we need them to do by supplying
customers/collectors, then, perhaps the fees are justified. And that
may be the only measure, for us, of the justification for the fees.
Of course, we don’t get to justify the fees, if we don’t get in to
the exhibition or the show, but the expense of the running the
jurying process is the same for those accepted and those declined.
Another solution is to become part of a collective or cooperative; a
gallery or show run only by the exhibitors. In that case, the
disbursement of all the fees would be transparent, but I’ve never
felt that this particular process was worth all the work required to
run it. I’d rather have someone else handle all that ‘stuff’ and
give me the opportunity to just make, show and sell my work. That’s
what I’ve done for over 35 years (holy cow!), and it’s worked for
me. Of course there is also the option of opening one’s own
gallery/store, and this has worked for many on this Orchid forum, as
a way to sell one’s work. Whole other conversation, though.
Enough of my rambling,