Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pre-selected, selected, long listed, shortlisted, prizewinner - what's in a phrase?

There seems to be massive amount of confusion in people's minds about the difference between pre-selection, selection, shortlisting and winning. I can't see how most of this occurs, but I do my best to politely set them straight....
View of last year's Sunday Times Watercolour Competition at the Mall Galleries
This is a quote from a competition organiser and was their response to an email from me pointing out that somebody was claiming on a website to have WON a rather prestigious prize last year!  (The individual hadn't - and the reason I knew that for a fact was because I interviewed the winner who not only had a completely different name but was also of the other sex!)

Given the claim was actually on a gallery website it might have been a gallerista who was exercising rather too few brain cells.

However I've certainly have come across artists who really haven't got a clue when it comes to the technical terms relating to art competitions.

The main difficulty seems to be understanding the difference between "selected" and "shortlisted".

So here is.....

A glossary of art competition descriptions for the confused


You made it through the first (screening) stage and you are now officially on the long list.

Typically this is associated with a digital pre-screening. Your digital image worked. You now need to get your artwork to where it is being judged in person.

Selected artist

Your artwork has now been selected for the Exhibition.

Somehow or other we end up with a list of artists' names rather than a list of selected artworks. Hence why you are now referred to as a "selected artist"

This is the term most of the people who get into an exhibition SHOULD use.


There is an official and announced shortlist for the prize.  Your name is on it.  You get invited to the announcement of the prizewinners which may or may not also include dinner! (Suddenly you realise you need a new frock or suit!)

To qualify as a shortlist the list has to be short.  If it's got 80 names on it it's not a shortlist - it's a list of selected artists!

A lot of prizes don't do this but some do (e.g. BP Portrait, Threadneedle).


You won a prize. As in "A prize" not "THE prize".  You get the smaller cheque.


You won "THE prize"!  The one the competition is named after. You can now officially feel faint, revise your CV and website to make a big thing about it and generally wonder how on earth that happened.

You also get a big cheque and the problem of what to do with it!

Links: Major UK Art Competitions in the UK in 2013