We’ve seen it happen time and again and artists have asked us about this when considering what to submit to our magazine or new gallery, PxP Contemporary. Think that including images from multiple series of works will double or triple your chances of being selected for that juried show, publication or gallery you’ve dreamed of showing with? Well, unfortunately, that’s not likely the case. I know that it’s tempting to want to show off the range of your style and creative ability, but here’s why this isn’t the time to do so.
Demonstrate to the juror that you’ve taken time to really develop an idea, push yourself and stick to it! When you focus on one subject for a while, you get a much better idea of what works and what doesn’t and this helps you build your creative voice. Always keep in mind that submitting your work is like a leaving a first impression. If you have pieces from two bodies of work it can give off the vibe that you don’t quite know who you are yet as an artist or that you’re not confident enough in either series to commit to it fully. I’ll borrow from Kat here and say that you should always be sharing work that excites you! Which paintings, drawings, sculptures, or (insert whatever incredible work you create here) are you most excited about right now? Those are what you should be submitting!
Sometimes, it’s purely practical. For publications especially, it is difficult to consider an artist if we wouldn’t be able to put together a consistent spread with their work. Each book, journal, or magazine will have a distinct aesthetic so make it easy for them to know that you are the right fit and to feature your work. The same applies to a gallery, which has to make sure that your work could fill their space and look professional. They are also looking out for their collectors, who come to them specifically for their curatorial expertise. Rather than show them everything in the hopes that they end up buying something (with the risk of overwhelming them), a good dealer will work with the client to help them find something they love from a narrower selection based on their interest and budget. Collectors do often want to see a variety of works, but still within the same theme or style.
If you are equally satisfied with several bodies of work at the moment, I’d still recommend only applying with one or at least one at a time. The biggest issue with this is that you’re leaving the curator to fill in the blanks and assuming that they can or will. How is someone who is not familiar with your work supposed to imagine what the rest of a series looks like when they’ve only seen a few pieces from it? You know that a whole group of works exists that are as great as the ones you’ve submitted, but the curator does not. If they have to go through hundreds or even thousands of artist submissions, they won’t always have the time to go looking through your website or Instagram account to see if you’ve made others like the one or two that they did like.
If you’ve recently started a new body of work that you’re wondering if you should start putting out there, make sure it’s ready. Do you have enough works from this series completed and photographed? If not, what’s the rush? There will be more opportunities to apply to. You can keep submitting from an earlier series for now if you want and if there is no restriction from the organization on how recent the work must be or simply allow yourself the time to fully dive into this great new idea.
Of course, none of this is to say that you have to stick to the same thing forever. No, on the contrary, because it would be hard to have repeat collectors if your work never develops. Your gallery, if you have one, and your collectors simply want to see you continue to grow and will support you along the way!
If you’re making abstract sculptures, but have always wanted to try painting cats, go ahead! One of the greatest things about being an artist is having the freedom to experiment with your creativity. Ultimately, you have to DO YOU. But when it comes time to apply to that next exhibition opportunity, I hope you’ll consider the above and give yourself the best chance of being selected!
As always, both Kat and I are happy to answer any art career questions you have so please feel free to reach out to us: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and if you liked this article, check out the Art & Cocktails podcast or our new book The Smartist Guide for more tips.
Cheers and I wish you luck in applying to our current call for Issue 15 curated by Paradigm Gallery! Submit here.