June 13, 2019 | Alyson Stanfield

How Much Will That Juried Art Show Cost You?

Those in charge of juried art shows have made it stupid easy for you to enter.

Lisa Garner sculpture
©Lisa Garner, Happy Gaia. Polymer clay sculpture.

Step 1: Upload images.

Step 2: Complete form.

Step 3: Enter credit card and click the submit button.

The wise artist will pause before that last step and ask these questions.

  • Does this show contribute to my goals?
  • What do I want to accomplish by being in this exhibition?
  • Aside from the nominal entry fee, what are the other costs that are involved if my work is selected?

There are many other things to consider, but these are at the top of the list. And it's the final bullet point that I want to address.

The Costs of a Juried Art Show

You won't know if a show is worth your financial investment until you do the math.

Back in 2012, an artist sent me an email about a  painting she was sending to a juried art exhibition that would sell for $1200.

She outlined the fees involved as follows, which appear to be for 2 shows.

Framing $400

Shipping to both shows $300
Entry fees $70
Hanging fees $70
Box $50

Subtotal = $890

Karen Lynn Link painting
©2014 Karen Lynn Link, Golden Pears IV. Acrylic on paper, 9.75 x 13.25 inches. Used with permission.

If the work sold, she would have a $310 profit. ($1200 – $890)

But, the venue would take a 35% commission, which would be $420, and mean that she would be $110 in the hole. ($420-310)

None of this math includes the costs of material, labor, office time, or emotional energy. So why would she participate?

Why Enter Juried Art Exhibitions

Do enter juried shows for experience. If you pay close attention, you will learn something from every exhibition you enter.

Do enter juried shows to network with other artists and organizers. You never know who you'll meet.

Do enter juried shows if they produce nice catalogs and have a prestigious track record.

Lisa Hebden painting
©Lisa Hebden, Inside Day. Oil on canvas, 48 x 38 inches. Used with permission.

Don't entered juried shows (especially ones across the country) in hopes of making money.

Resolve

Get smart about money! It's okay to invest money in experience and exposure as long as you know what you're doing and understand the financial implications.

I teach my students in the Art Career Success System to do the numbers when they want to be professional about their art business. All of the details are here, and we have a Financial Lab work session coming up on June 26. I hope you'll join us and focus on business growth and smart decisions.

This post was originally published on January 7, 2013, and has been updated with original comments intact. 

47 comments add a comment
  • Number one: Paying $400 to frame a small painting like that is absolutely ridiculous. Number 2: Maybe she should choose sites/contests that are a bit more reasonable; maybe even free? Number 3: She should be happy she sold the painting at all. So many aspiring artists out there never do.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Janet: Who said the painting was small?
      #2: That’s the point: do the math and figure out if it’s a good move for you.
      #3: Who said the painting sold?

    • Alyson Stanfield

      It might still be worth it if the networking is right, the juror is someone you want to see your art, etc.

    • There’s a picture right at the top of a painting, with very small dimensions in the description. However that artist’s name is “Jim”, so probably not the female painter and work described in the article.
      But I agree – spreadsheets are an artist’s friends.

    • If a professional artist, with tax id, you should be using wholesale framers for discounted prices on frames, then double the cost and add it to total cost of the painting. I do not ship great distances, especially if a large painting, you rarely recoup the costs.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Thanks for sharing that, Kathy.

    • Kathy – why are you paying for shipping? Why aren’t the clients who purchase your paintings paying the shipping cost?

  • Yes, this artist needs to get smart about money. If she shipped the painting to 1 gallery ($150) and the gallery takes 50% she still is only making $100 “profit”.

  • Whoa! I have done the math before, but this time it really hit me over the head.
    One thing about framing – maybe it’s best not to frame, as the possible client may not like the choice. Many pieces do not have to be framed if on gallery wrapped canvas or cradled board. Just an option to consider.
    It’s really easy to get caught up in the entire experience and not pay attention to how much we are truly spending.
    Thanks, Alyson

  • I only look for and enter competitions where I can hand deliver my work. In Southern Cal that isn’t too hard to do, but I’ve had really good luck in 2012 with selling my art at the show, getting some really good contacts and making new connections with gallery owners. I figure all expenses in my price and I do it because I think it’s fun! Just another way to get my art and name out there.

  • This looks like an advertisement for fiber art. Not framing and shipping is really cheap because we can roll it up – rarely costs more than $20-$30.
    Although my question is if we talk about the price of the frame separately – should the price of the canvas and paint and studio space and water and electricity also be included? The gas to drive to fedex and ship it? Sounds to me like the problem might be this artist hasn’t set her prices high enough.

  • Nilé Livingston

    It is important for artists to have time creating new art, networking and experiencing life without worries of market issues. Juried Art Exhibitions are designed to share your work with supporters who are willing to nourish your career. The brilliance of an open call is that it expands your exposure. It’s about learning how to present your work, inspire others, and collaborating in order to build awareness and appreciation for the art world. Interaction among fellow artists and innovators will arouse interest in your work and encourage you to explore different techniques, thus assuring further success of your work and building a community.
    I’m hosting a short film contest on my website http://nilelivingston.com/neighborhood/ In response to the creative minds that assemble short films for school, work, or fun; and after showing them to their peers the films are forgotten about. I want to re-surface and share these works. Please consider applying, it’s open to everyone everywhere.

  • catherine feeman

    The caption under the art in the article above said, 4″ x 12″. I think Janet (comment above), as well as I, thought that as the piece of art the stats was referring to. It’s certainly true that we need to be very purposeful, and informed, as to exhibitions we enter. Local exhibits eliminate shipping but framing is very expensive. Some exhibits even require the original art for jurying, which means all that shipping could be for nothing if your work does not get accepted!

  • Yep….that’s about right. They are soooo much work for such little return.

  • I did an experiment with juried shows in 2006. The shows did nothing for me (and the other artists) other than take money and hang art on their walls for the time of the show.
    A lot of time driving, dropping off art, picking up art that was not chosen, going to the openings, picking up art after not sold, and all this during my regular day job hours.
    I was in the red for over $600…and that does not include time and gasoline.
    It was an experiment and a lesson: most juried shows are not worth my time and effort.
    I forwarded this post, Alyson, to my husband and a photographer friend.
    THANK YOU for a realistic view of juried shows!

    • Shelly L

      You are so right Angeline… at some point you just get fed up with these juried shows because you discover you are paying them to (potentially) reject you!
      I have entered my last paid-for juried show. I will enter free ones only from now on.
      I think artists need to fight back against these fee-only juried shows that can reject you and keep your money. Refuse to enter them. They are getting more and more expensive and do relatively nothing for you even if you are chosen. I have been in so many of them — I have no idea how much I have spent so far on juried show submission, and most of them have led to nothing at all.

  • How is the artist calculating gallery prices? All costs (including artist’s desired profit, framing, overheads and costs of materials) should be doubled. So why isn’t she doubling her frame price? A gallery would – if you sell through a gallery at a 50% commission they don’t take the cost of the frame off first. So even if she sold this in a regular gallery they would pay her 50%, or $600. $400 is her framing bill so was she really only wanting $200 for the actual painting? Standard formula is to double everything – profit, costs of materials, overheads of studio, framing – to get a gallery price.
    I agree with the general theme of the post – I always add up all costs of exhibiting and then decide if that is a worthwhile expense on its own if I got no return. The same goes for art fairs too! Where you also need add in your own time if you’re manning the booth.

  • I’ve really started to taper off the number of juried shows that I enter. Not just because of the numbers like the ones above, but also because I find it hard to support my work in the show if it is more than a couple of hours away by car. I love when people get to see my work, but if I’m not there, those eyes rarely turn into sales. I’d rather invest the funds I’d spend entering a handful of juried shows, plus what shipping would cost me, on events that I create or participate in closer to where I live. I can work that event then, and try to turn that show into business for me. It just seems to be money better spent that way.

  • Thanks for this post, Alyson. I submit yearly to about 4 or 5 juried exhibits, primarily in hopes of building my resume and getting my work out there. Selling the painting is not my objective in entering these exhibits, and I know that I have not been very wise in how I price the paintings I submit. When all of the adding up is done, in some instances I might find it a better strategy to put NFS on a painting I am submitting for a juried exhibit.

    • Some shows don’t accept NFS pieces. Some don’t want your signature on the front and you already signed it. And then there are those that require a signature even if a small light signature detracts from the painting, and you wanted it unsigned on the front so it could be hung vertically or horizontally.

  • Wow. This has several problems like
    1. Unless a show has an exceptional opportunity for recognition, I won’t pay to enter. Especially if the entry fee is over $25.
    2. She paid an entry fee just for a shot at getting into the show, and then a hanging fee on top of that? You would have a very hard time convincing me that this is justifiable!
    3. Who is she paying for framing, boxing and shipping? Those services can all be had at a far lower cost. Our creativity cannot stop when we walk away from the easel, we need to find alternatives to high cost services.
    I am not writing to criticize this artist, but to help us open our eyes. The art world is full of organizations and people whose full time job is extracting money from artists, who have very little extra to begin with. As long as our eagerness, and, lets admit it, desperation, to get our art shown drives us to pay to show our work, these groups will continue fleecing us. If we just say enough and stop handing over money that we have worked hard for, things might change.
    There are many high profile organizations and shows that have made a policy of not charging artists jury fees. They have found that this brings a higher quality of art, since established, successful artists are less likely to to pay to hang their art. Lets do what we can to support them!

    • Shelly L

      Deb — I totally agree!
      It’s time for artists to stop entering these expensive shows — say No! Then maybe things will change. Artists are gouged for money every way we turn. Galleries and these expensive juried group shows are no exception.
      Just think about it — musicians and writers and actors get people to pay THEM for their work, in all venues. They don’t pay people in order to play music or act in a play in a venue — they get paid, instead.
      Artists, for some reason, pay people to look for free at their art. There is something wrong with this picture!

  • Shelly L

    “There are many high profile organizations and shows that have made a policy of not charging artists jury fees. ”
    Where, and who?

    • Just two are International Print Center New York, and the Printmaking Center of New Jersey. Just keep your eyes open, and don’t encourage the pick pocketing of artists by submitting to juried shows with entry fees.

      ESPECIALLY when those are held in commercial galleries!

  • So many good points here, Alyson. Looks like pricing and costs gets quite a reaction, but your first point – does this show contribute to my goals? – is something I have learned to pay more attention to. It’s tempting to try to get your art in front of influential jurors or audiences, but if a particular show isn’t in line with my immediate goals, I’ve found it’s often just a form of “productive procrastination”. Thank you for another great reminder!

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Joan: Interesting. I would encourage you to look at more than “immediate” goals. I’m sure you do, but I have to mention that long-term goals are also important to consider.

  • Great article.
    I have stopped entering art shows because of lack of benefits compared to cost. I make a living from my art sales and I realized the shows did nothing to contribute to sales. I used to be concerned about continuing to develop my resume but have found that was of no concern to my customers. Also for the national shows I had to hold onto any accepted pieces for months until time to ship to the show when they could have been in a gallery and available to sell. I want my best pieces for shows but I also want them in the gallery in front of potential customers.
    Every artist has different goals and a different path to walk but as this article encourages, being logical and thoughtful about what we want to achieve when making decisions is wise.
    A couple of people commented about cost of frames and pointed out that we need to double the frame cost to add to artwork price as galleries do not pay for frames. I agree but would also add that even then we still lose. Unless we frame the artwork ourselves we have to make two trips to the Framer, one to drop off and one to pick up. That’s time and gas expenses no one pays for.
    Thank you for thoughtful and honest article.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Carol: Thank you for sharing your experience. This is an excellent insight: “I used to be concerned about continuing to develop my resume but have found that was of no concern to my customers.”

  • There are a lot of interesting responses here. The artist clearly needs to charge more for the art. They are not able to cover their costs at that price point. I disagree with the destain for entry fee based juried shows. The fees pay the juror a nominal fee and usually provide a needed influx of cash into a regional gallery. Being more selective is smart. I usually apply to a show when the Juror(s) is someone I want to see my work. I also often use a regional show as an excuse to visit that town. As an artist moves up the art industry food chain, those shows on your resume are Exhibition Experience!

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Good points, Squid. I, too, would consider travel to be a plus in some cases.

  • Excellent analysis of what these juried shows cost. Brings to light a lot of what I have been struggling with lately. Best to invest on the greatest return for your dollar.

  • I’ve been entering juried shows with fees since becoming a full time artist two years ago. The criteria I use to determine which shows to enter include total cost (frame, entry fees, shipping etc); whether the show is local, regional or national; amount of awards, and whether the juror is from the art community (artist or curator). I will not enter shows judged by the public, nor shows without an entry fee. Perhaps a misperception, but I don’t believe shows without entry fees or awards are going to include the quality of work I want to hang with. Those entry fees fund the awards, juror payment and cost to rent the show space. To date, none of my paintings have sold while in a show which I consider a good thing since I don’t owe commission. Instead, participating in shows and winning a few awards has helped me quickly build a reputation as a serious artist, provided topics for my newsletter, expanded my arts network, and given me specific bragging rights to attach to certain paintings. All of this is part of my marketing plan and built into my annual budget and helps me sell my artwork on my own. Alyson, thank you for the thought provoking post!

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Beth: I love your criteria! This makes it much easier to find the right shows.

  • I have entered juried shows on 5 occasions and chose ones that are close enough for me to deliver my work as I do very large pieces. Four out of five of those pieces sold on buyers preview night and every time people who saw the sold work came to my studio to purchase similar work. It has been most profitable for me and has brought the exposure I wanted. But the real benefit was the testing of the market. These shows really help me understand where and who my customers are. It is a great opportunity for feedback from curators. I consider the cost of the show to be the best advertising dollar I could spend.

  • Steve Koch

    Great “issue” for review!

    I have seen calls for shows. Juried, w entry fees.
    I do the numbers and i figure the only way to make money is to organize and put on a juried, “pay for entry” show myself! Lol…but its really not that funny. Its a shame.
    Guess the only way around it is for the artists to have their own show. And the jurors can pay to have the privelege of veiwing so much great work!
    (One thought…in Portland, as i am sure its happening other locals, there are malls…LLOYD CENTER…who are renting out retails spaces…short term. Perhaps this is a venue to be explored!)

    • Alyson Stanfield

      You should definitely do this, Steve. Especially as a solo show. You will learn so much in the process.

  • One benefit you didn’t mention is that your painting might win an award in a juried show, so it is possible to come out ahead. Of course, all of the other costs and benefits are valid, too.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Good point, Jane. And … some awards are worth more (prestige-wise) than others.

  • Toni Haigh

    I have entered a number of juried shows over many years. One in particular rejected me for almost 20 years. Finally they accepted one. I flew across country to be there for the opening reception. Was very disappointing as there were no name tags to distinguish the artists and a very small turnout at such a prestigious venue. Was asked why I hadn’t shown there before and they were taken aback when I told them how many years I had been rejected. Then they (board members) commented that I didn’t need their show as I was from California??? It was very biased to eastern artists. I was extremely pleased when my painting sold for $6500 and was the high seller. Made it all worthwhile !!

    • Alyson Stanfield

      Whoa. What a lesson, Toni! As I was reading your story, I thought about how sad it was. Glad it had a happy ending.

  • I have a huge amount to say on this topic and the post would be too long. Short version is – Don’t enter a show unless its free or up to $15 to enter. Ever. Not one of my customers in 20+ years ever cared what show I was in and I am a full time self sustaining painter.

  • I used to enter shows, but ended up quitting that when shows started adding all kinds of fees to the mix. Unboxing and boxing fees? Hanging fees? I noticed some even started charging a fee to have the juror send you a three sentence email denoting what they thought of your painting.

    I’m sorry, but unless it’s something like an OPA show it isn’t worth it. You’d be better off renting a pop-up and finding an art festival near you and spend a couple of days rubbing elbows with the people that are actually buying art.

  • Excellent article that really got a conversation going, the best kind! Very thoughtful and informative replies too. Clearly there is no one size fits all answer, there are so many variables, like geography: do you live in a metro area, rural area, artists’ colony that could be found in either? Style: abstract, representational, assemblage, sculpture….? Medium, size of work, transportability…

    My own work is representational, and specific to my region – the Mojave desert, mainly around Johsua Tree, CA. – so entering a juried show outside my area, even Santa Fe which is a different sort of desert market, would be a huge waste of resources. Even if I get noticed, and a gallery or two wants to represent me, is it realistic or worthwhile to haul work more than a couple of hours away on my dime?

    You recently profiled an artist based in Florida, who spends months at a time creating pieces in the places where she has representation, to fulfill her obligations. It works for her and I admire herr success. A part of me would love that sort of vagabond lifestyle, another part thinks it would be physically and creatively draining. I have an endless supply of subject matter where I live and can’t imagine getting bored or running out of ideas.

    Juried shows? I do two regularly, one hosted locally by the NPS, and featuring subjects inspired by Joshua Tree Nat’l Park, and the Palm Springs Artist Council show. The former has a small fee of around $35 to enter, the latter requires membership as well as an entry fee, so it can cost up to $150 just to enter! (Although one may enter up to 3 pieces for consideration). I always get juried into the NPS show when I enter, I am 3 for 4 in Palm Springs, but I did win an award once, and have made some very valuable connections through them.

    Thank you Alison, for revisiting this subject!

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