I know - one of those perennial questions which always gets asked but in this post I'm asking this question in relation to juried art exhibitions.
Recently somebody commented (offline) on the photo below of the award-winning paintings in my recent post RWS / Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2008 - exhibition review. The comment was to the effect that my reader hadn't previously realised the size of some of the paintings being exhibited.
courtesy Bankside Gallery
In fact, the same point had already occurred to me. It was also the reason why I included an average sized person in the photo.
Juried art competitions - does size matter?
One of the problems with seeing images from juried exhibitions on a website and in isolation is that you often get a very good view of the image - but you have absolutely no idea as to the size of that image, unless you make a point of also looking at the data about dimensions. Given the confusion over conversions between metric and imperial systems of measurement one might also see the dimensions - and they mean absolutely nothing to you. (Here's a converter!)
It suddenly struck me the other day that jurors who only view digital images to make a selection also have no way of comparing their relative size and impact - and the level of work employed.
photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell, Courtesy Mall Galleries
I visit, see and review very many top flight juried exhibitions in London in the course of a year. I know what I see and I'd have to say that, on the whole, my impression is that size certainly does matter in juried exhibitions. By 'size does matter' I mean the extremes of both dimensions - both large and small (ie miniature).
Here are some of the reasons why I think size might matter for some jurors. I'm inviting you to comment and also to suggest whether there are any other reasons.
- Exhibitions are often held in rooms a great deal bigger than the ones we produce our work in. Pictures which 'carry' across a distance have impact.
- Larger paintings often have more impact - they're much more difficult to ignore
- Artists want to make a statement and have an impact in a juried competition - so produce work which is larger and more significant than maybe the size they usually use
- Some might suggest producing bigger work is a shortcut to getting noticed - take a look at this BBC item about larger works of art Arts gets bigger and bigger (Dear BBC - Grammar?)
- Larger paintings tend to have a higher value. On the the basis of "high value=good painting" that presumably makes bigger paintings better. (I'm not saying this is true - just that it may well be an implicit assumption in some people's minds)
- If a juror is also the gallery owner collecting the commission if the piece sells, one might hesitate to think there could also be some incentive to awarding prizes to larger pieces - but it's got to be a possibility!
Can you think of any other reasons why size might matter?
Some questions for you
Here are some things to think about and/or comment on.
- How often do you go to see top quality juried art exhibitions? What do you notice about the work which wins prizes?
- How often do you view your own work from 20 feet or more?
- How big is 'big enough'?
- Is bigger better - or is small more beautiful?
I'm now off to the Private View of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers!