Monday, 23 December 2013

would you enter a competition with a fee payable in unscratched lotto cards, judge for such a fee

This is a proposal for a conceptual art work that affects a critique of the Open
Call Competition as it impacts on the class of emergent artists. The conceptual
approach is emphasised by the use of unplayed National Lottery scratch cards as
the sole medium of value transfer in the project
at all times, before being awarded
to winners in the competition, these remain unscratched and unevaluated. The
judges and curators in the competition will be required to accept reimbursement of
expenses in the same terms.

Keywords: conceptual art, lottery, open competition, scratch cards

Background and Context

The economic events of 2008 have closed down many sources of funding for the Arts
and (adding in the UK the added impact of university education fees debt ) sharpened
a desire for recognition among artists coming through art colleges.
The open art competition has long been perceived of as a route towards recognition and
acceptance, the Royal Academy of Arts has run a summer competition since 1769: how-
ever the Impressionists and Fauvists of the 19c saw themselves as being disadvantaged
by an existing art establishment in control of the Paris Salon. We study the principal
actors in this format.
To start with, we have the entrants in a competition. These will typically be recently
trained, artists coming out of art college, or possibly still students; they can be called
emergent, and are definitely not in representation arrangements with galleries.
Facing these entrants are judges. These are busy ambitious people and artists with their
own practise: in the case of the Royal Academy, these are establishment figures in the
British Art world. The 2014 Summer Show will be capped at 12,000 entries from which
a long list of 4,000 are to be delivered to London and will be judged in their physical
Where the work will be exhibited a curating team will take an overall lead in selecting
work to t the advertised scope of the competition, the traditions of the gallery and the
physical placement of the selected work in the gallery. These curators have their own
practise and in addition have a knowledge of locations in which art may be shown.
Working closely with curators we have professional gallery owners or managers of publicly
run exhibition spaces. These people are looking for results, even commercial success
and sales or non-commercial measures of success such as audience feedback and public
Competitions without a long historical tradition may be brought into existence by professional curators wishing to extend their knowledge of the players in the market by
advertising open calls for new work.
A critical factor for the emergent artist is that the judging process be blind, that is
to say that the identity of the artist is not known at the point of judging the value
of the work. It must be accepted that to the judge the value of knowing the artists
name and background will help situate the judge's view of the value of the work. To a
curator or potential gallerist the value of the artist's identity and CV will help establish a
commercial success of a show based on work. We therefore have a contradiction between
the unknown emerging artist and a judging community which wishes to make judgements
based on known values.
There are clear expenses in the selection process for a competition and research shows
that in 2012, 32% of open calls made a fee charge. There is a real debate about the ethics
of a publicly funded gallery making charges for submission of works to a call. Jonathan
Parsons (ASPEX, 2013) notes that the public funding can extend to the curation and
display of works but if it were to be expected to cover the judging process the funds
would quickly run out. It can be reasonably expected that the submission rate for a free
call will be higher and thereby increase the load on the judges.
As a counterexample we might reference a call by the Cartazini Gallery. In this example
the judges of the competition reduced their work load by formulating the call, in its rst
round to a lottery based on a random selection of email addresses submitted by potential
entrants (Cartazini, 2013).
Even before the economic collapses of 2008 the gap between artist's earnings and earnings
in the arts industry was widening to the detriment of artists. Research, quoted in (Jones,
2013) \shows that full-time earnings in the arts have risen by 6.8% in the last ve years,
while part-time earnings { one might surmise these to include freelancers and artists {
have decreased by 5.3%." Some voices would express opinions that an element of sharp
practice has entered this field (Bamberger, 2011).
A natural application of caveat emptor will mean that an artist should examine the
credentials of a calling gallery or calling organisation with some idea as to the likelihood
that her work is first relevant to the call , secondly suited to the named judges and
thirdly the gallery is known to show work similar to the artist. A blind judging process
and the level of the submission fee are important secondary concerns.

The Internet has made it possible to reach out to artists In common with other lines
of business and advertise open calls. The physical exhibition of selected work has been
joined by websites that offer on-line exhibition or commercial opportunities to display
work for sale on commission.
A valid question attaches to the effectiveness of these channels, this will depend on the
brand value of the website offerings.For instance Saatchi Online offers facilities for the
display and marketing of individual artists' work. There are many imitators, overall
there must be limits to the success of these. In any case the ability of the artist to
'game' the search engine on these sites and to guide a buyer to their display is key to
any individual success.
The Szpilman Award (Szpilman Award, 2013) sought submissions of ephemeral artwork,
\works that exist only for a moment or a short period of time" . This author responded
by submitting an unplayed lottery ticket to cause the judges, in an instant to note the
critique of the open competition and the 
fleeting anticipation before exercising the card.
This was not a successful submission.


To an emergent artist the Open Competition may seem akin to a lottery: there is
the sense of paying money out to receive a rejection note which is paralleled in the hope
expressed in purchase of a lottery ticket and the disappointment of the declaration of the
draw. The proposal is to make a conceptual art work in the establishing and execution
of a democratic and egalitarian Open Competition funded on the putative value of
unplayed \virginal" UK National Lottery scratch cards. In detail, the submission fee
for this competition will be made by the entrant purchasing a required number of these
cards and sending them, untouched with the artwork for judging. At no stage while
the cards are held, in escrow by the organisers, will the cards be played or in anyway
defaced. The judges and curators will agree to accept recompense for their services in
an agreed proportion of the submitted cards. There will be a blind judging process from
which a list of winners will be drawn. The prizes for the competition will also be made
as unplayed cards. The cards must be seen to retain the contingent value at which they
were purchased until the prize winners, the judges and curators individually exercise
their option to scratch them privately. Any winnings from these awarded tickets are not
of interest to this project.


We see three distinct objectives targeted at the different participants and applicable at
differing times in the process. Initially, we are making a critique of the way in which
emergent artists must submit to an arbitrary judgement on their work which may be
based on factors beyond the objective quality of the submitted work. Second, we are
inviting the professional and established artists, judges and curators to engage in the
same lottery as the entrants. Third, the selected prize winners will be required to
measure material success in the same contingent terms as all other participants, the
recognition of the objective value of the work cannot be diminished. A fuller discussion
of the intention and value of these outcomes follows.

Research Design and Methods

The design of this project will have a large number of serial dependencies and these are
presented in the order that can be foreseen at this moment. We separate these into
concerns of team building, logistics and delivery.

Team Building

In as much as this project sets out a critique of the Open Call it may be perceived as
a criticism of the arts establishment. It will be essential in all the `selling' steps below
to defuse these perceptions. Some early choice of a sympathetic ear, an establishment
`insider', will help in the creation of an alternative network and may make or break this
Within this tangle of interests, the relationship of established artists as judges with
venues and curators will need to be balanced. A key point here is the perceived quality
of the venue and of selection by respected judges: these have an authentic worth in terms
of their contribution to a winner's curriculum vitae. As organisers, we must reach for
the highest quality within the scope of our personal network to extend our network as
far as possible: a possibility exists to make an early call for judges and curators who are
receptive to this structure. The selection process here will be greatly driven by issues of
curriculum vitae and is in no sense a blind decision.
Although the judges and curators will have material living costs, they may be amenable
to joining in this venture for more or less altruistic reasons to offset these. On the other
hand the venue being a commercial organisation and with corporate accounts is least
likely to view the contingent value of a lottery scratch as useful. It is possible that we
will need the persuasive powers of an established artist to win around their representing
The judges and curators and the venue will be ex officio members of the consortium.
The proportions for the division of the lottery tickets between winners and ex officio
members will need to be decided.


A legal study should be undertaken to check if there are any problems with the use
of National Lottery Tickets and or whether the competition can be incorporated in
such a way as to guard against litigation. We will develop the terms and conditions
for the competition, the entrants will be required to sign o on these. The terms and
conditions will likely be used to formulate any legal entity that may be required to handle


A decision on the theme and any title of the competition and then as to media to be
submitted will be driven by the expertise of the judges and curators, the organisers will
defer to this level of knowledge.
With these factors in place, the organisers can price the entrance fee in multiples of $2
lottery tickets and the choice of lottery game to mandate; set a timescale for the call
and judging process against a known exhibition opening date
At this point we will make a call on well known sites, e.g. A-N and Wooloo. In addition to
the entrants accepting terms and conditions, the entry form will contain a questionnaire
which explores the entrant's motives in joining the competition: among other things
to assess the perceived value in the judging panel and the venue. Other questions need
preparation to understand entrants' response to submission fees.
The competition will need to be run and a selectors panel convened after the closing
date. The winners should be notified and their allocation of tickets mailed to them. We
are from this point in the more familiar territory of setting up a physical show.
We should analyse the questionnaires and report any significant findings in e.g. Artists'
Major milestones are first, the identification of the professional partners in this scheme.
Within 4 weeks of inception.
Next, the formulation of the `rule book' and the design of the `call to artists'. This
may proceed in parallel with the above but with the intention of absorbing as much
professional advice as possible. About 4 weeks elapsed and completed about 6 weeks
after inception.
Last, the call at 7 weeks after inception and declaration of result at 10 weeks.


The beneficial outcomes that may be anticipated in this project may all be judged educational and formative: initial descriptions of this project were described as complex and,
or the project itself was complex. The present formulation of the plan will make head-
way against that criticism, while identifying the points of needless complexity or moving
towards being able to better express the plan and to move its `sale' onwards.
Selling a conceptual artwork to potential gallerists and judges is a novel experience for
emergent artists who may have never actually sold a physical artwork.
The characterisation of Open Calls as lotteries would be all too apt unless some participant in this project were to win a prize. It may be significant to note Osborne, 2010
who has made a different use of Lottery Tickets Fig : 1: .
Figure 1: Alice in Lotto Land, 
c Rosa Osborne 2010


ASPEX (June 2013). debate about Open competition and fees. url: http://www.aspex. (Retrieved 12/08/2013).
Bamberger, A (2011). Timewastes or Scams. url:
osoqutscawas.html (Retrieved 12/08/2013).
Barabbas, L (Nov. 2012). The pay's the thing. url: http://culturalvalueinitiative.
org/2012/11/27/the-pays-the-thing-by-louis-barabba/ (Retrieved 12/08/2013).
Cartazini (Aug. 2013). The Cartazini Biennial Award. url: http://www.cartazini.
com/award.html (Retrieved 12/09/2013).
CEBR (May 2013). The contribution of the arts and culture to the national economy.
and-guidance/contribution-arts-and-culture-national-economy (Retrieved
Gleason, M (June 2011). The Career Benets of Boycotting Charity Art Auctions. url: gleason/charity- art- auctions- _b_
872953.html?ref=fb&src=sp#sb=1792467b=facebook (Retrieved 12/08/2013).
Jones, S (June 2013). Artists funding and frictions. url: http://new.a-
news/single/artists-funding-and-frictions/ (Retrieved 12/08/2013).
Lozano, Y (June 2011). Have You Exploited an Artist Lately? url:
2011/06/12/have-you-exploited-an-artist-lately/ (Retrieved 12/08/2013).
Osborne, R (2010). Alice in Lotto land. url:
php (Retrieved 12/08/2013).
Szpilman Award (Aug. 2013). Szpilman Award. url: http://www.award.szpilman.
de/informations.html (Retrieved 12/06/2013).


No comments:

Post a Comment