Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to calculate the cost of entering a juried art exhibition

Have you ever sat down and really analysed how much it really costs to enter a juried art competition or open exhibition?

If you have then probably, like me, you may have had a bit of a shock.  Here are some of the reasons why the costs can mount up without you noticing and why it can be so expensive:
  • you're paying entry fees AND commission on sales
  • you're not submitting to a local gallery and it's not a short local drive in the car.  You've often got to get the artwork to a place a long way from home. This involves packing costs and shipping/travel costs which you don't normally have to pay - often both ways if the work is not accepted or doesn't sell.
  • the competition isn't from your locality - it's often national or international and there's hundreds if not thousands of people all competing to get their artwork into the exhibition
  • this exhibition is prestigious and the artwork needs a frame which looks good - and unless you've worked out to keep a handle on costs that can be expensive
There's only one thing worse than a nasty shock after you've worked through the numbers - and that's a nasty shock because you didn't work through the numbers!

I started working out the costs when I needed to work out a price for my work.  I didn't mind making only a little money if the work sold - I understood that juried exhibitions are often much more about marketing and building a following then they are about selling per se.  However I did object to making a loss!  Bear in mind that I also don't have the same transport/travel costs as other people as I already live in London.

It really made me start paying attention to pricing and to the scope to manage costs (eg buying frames which were standard sizes rather than custom made so that they can be reused with the mats custom made - by me).  Setting the costs out on paper helped me to focus on what costs could be better managed, what costs could be eliminated and what costs you just had to take on the chin.

A spreadsheet for calculating the costs of entering a juried exhibition

I've created a spreadsheet to help artists calculate the real cost of entering a juried art competition or open exhibition

A Making A Mark Guide: Analysing the cost of entering a juried art exhibition - is available from my website.  The spreadsheet automatically summarises costs and produces overall totals and net cost or profit.

Analysing the cost of entering a juried art exhibition - Practice Worksheet
If you enter your personal cost data (or estimates) based on experience or research - in the green column - it tells you
  • the costs of entering a juried exhibition - and how much you're spending on 'marketing' your work if it doesn't sell
  • the net gain if you sell the work 
It includes
  • a proforma template (yellow tab) which you can tailor to your own needs if you know how to use Excel.  Just copy the whole sheet over to a new sheet to start a calculation.
  • a worked example for a work which sold (blue tab)- gives you the net gain on which taxes are payable
  • a worked example for a work which did NOT sell (red tab) - to give to you the total potential cost of 
    • NOT submitting your best work 
    • and/or NOT making a realistic assessment of your chances of getting work accepted
  • a practice worksheet (green tab) which you can use again and again just be eliminating the data in the "enter data" column

Don't worry if you make a mess of it - you can always download it again!

If you're used to using spreadsheets, you should find it fairly self-explanatory.  Your cost data is entered in the green column in the practice sheet and the summary costs are then calculated automatically.

Do please let me know if you have any queries

Links to more resources for artists

Please note subscriptions only become live after you have verified the link in the email you will receive


  1. Nice spreadsheet Katherine.
    I might add a misc spot for the occasional unknown cost(s).
    One show I have entered multiple times in the past gives any buyer of art a 15% discount (on each work) if they are purchasing more than one work in that show at once. The 15% gets split by gallery and artist; 7.5% off gallery commission, 7.5% off artist commission. Costs like this can quickly eat up any slim profits.
    So how do you know beforehand if one of your works will get purchased at a bulk discount? You don't. Do you add that 7.5% on before? It is all a judgement call based on what final price you arrive at after ALL calculations, then you must decide... will it sell for that or do I absorb some of the costs to increase my chance of a sale?

    Entry fees are always required and non-refundable even if not juried in so you pay no matter what.
    Also, entry fees vary (example: first entry might be $30.00 then each additional might be $15.00) so that cost must be divided by all those juried in.
    I recently entered 7 with four juried in so the entry fee for all 7 then had to be divided by 4 since that was the final cost of entry.

    I agree with how expensive entering these can be and how quickly it all adds up. Even with the mentality of chocking it up to marketing costs we still must pay attention so marketing budgets do not get out of control before years end. It's like any business you must know where the $ is going. I always seek to operate at a profit so knowing all this is critical to earning a living through your art.
    Because of packing, shipping, insurance etc I am VERY selective about entering out-of-my-area juried competitions. I prefer to drive it there.

    If I am taking a marketing approach then I assess the competition and it's exposure/reputation before deciding, a point you touched on in your post "20 tips for entering art competitions".

    I have seen under priced work at shows like this. A painting by an out of town artist at $200.00, 60% to the artist = $120.00, start subtracting out framing, shipping, packing materials (expensive if art has to be under glass) entry fees etc then you arrive at a price to be divided by time spent (hourly rate) and the artist probably made less than minimum wage to produce it or spent MORE $ than they earned, selling it at a loss or essentially paying someone to take it home.

  2. Hi Katherine - I have entered a couple of juried shows in London and as I lived in Ireland at the time, I had to drive over personally to hand in the framed artwork, and again to collect it. The vast majority of shows outside of the UK are juried on line, which is much better! I have had a couple of artworks shown in America with the CPSA, which is cheaper to enter (on line), but the cost of actually putting the artwork into the show is vast - the international courier cost hundreds of pounds, and insurance was over £300 (more than insuring my car for the year!). I won awards twice, which did cover the costs, luckily. So when I got accepted for the 3rd year in a row, I'm afraid I decided that the cost was too high - though it would have given me Signature status. Recently I was encouraged to enter another London exhibition, but although there were collection points al over England, Scotland and Wales, there were NONE in Northern Ireland (I live in Belfast) - what's going on THERE????
    Warmest good wishes
    Julie x

  3. Ha! Nice one Katherine....
    I am constantly surprised and intrigued by your blog and your constant stream of ideas and useful information.
    May the Force continue to be with you...

  4. Great spreadsheet Katherine. This morning I took three paintings to my local city annual open juried exhibition. If I had used your spreadsheet before going I might have asked a higher price for them. I am in complete agreement with Paul's comments and I very much enjoy your blog.

  5. I have a similar spread sheet, so I don't forget to add all costs in figuring out the final price. I've had tremendous luck at selling my work at juried shows...so I pay very close attention to this!

  6. I've just had this comment via email. I won't mention who from as he's just in the process of submitting some paintings!

    It makes the very important point that those who get some works accepted and some rejected are faced with THREE trips to London!

    Hi Katherine

    Your post on the cost of entering juried exhibitions has come just as I am about to set off to London yet again with paintings for one of the Federation of British Artist's juried exhibitions. This time it is the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA) where I have been asked to take my work in to the gallery after getting through the first cut where the selection panel view jpegs of your work.

    Although your spreadsheet looks to be a very good way of calculating the cost of entering open exhibitions, I think I know what it will tell me if I were to put in all the relevant data - that it is not worth my while submitting work to the annual exhibitions of the national painting societies as long as they only hold their exhibitions in London, particularly as I live over 200 miles from London.

    However, I made a decision a few years ago that if I wanted to find out if my work is any good or not then I needed to try and exhibit in these national exhibitions alongside some of the best artists in the country. So for me it was a question of boosting my confidence and getting some exposure for my work nationally away from my own back yard - and I think I have achieved both of these aims but always with the knowledge that there has been a cost for me to do so. Although, overall, I think I have still made a small profit through getting some enquiries about my work from gallery visitors.

    I note your comment about the cost of delivery for those who don't live in London; but what you don't mention is that it is often necessary to make three trips to London to exhibit at the Mall Gallery. This happens if you are unlucky enough to be asked to take in, say, three works for the jury to view and they reject one and accept two, and then one of these sells and one doesn't. Under the current system you have to return to collect the rejected painting and then return to the gallery again to collect the one that didn't sell! So in my case this submission process can entail three 400 mile round trips to London - no wonder these exhibitions have a huge bias towards artists living in the south east of England.

    Whilst I am aware that the possibility of the selection panel viewing the works on the day they are delivered is not possible due to the sheer volume of submissions, I do think that it would be of great help (and encouragement) to those artists living far away if they were offered the choice of collecting rejected paintings at the end of the exhibition along with any works that do not sell.

    Hey ho, an artists life is not all about painting is it?!

  7. Nice one, thank you for sharing it with us

  8. I don't know if you ever get thanked enough for your generous posts. This one addresses an issue that is often overlooked.
    Thank you!

  9. Thank you for doing this you are brilliant


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