When Should I Enter an Art Prize?
Well, based on the adage, “you’ve gotta be in it to win it”, you could say always, but its worth taking a few things into consideration. There are a number of open art prizes, often associated with a particular city, town or gallery, that don’t have categories. Others are based on particular categories, some are site specific, and some are age specific etc. What is certainly worth doing is checking out the specifics of an art prize, the application process, cost, time-frames etc. and then, even if you don’t enter, check out who were accepted as finalists, who won, who was people’s choice etc. Many art prizes have great websites where you are able to check all this out on previous years. Although judges usually change each year, well established prizes tend to follow particular trends, and develop a particular genre, so its certainly worth checking out as much as you can.
The best advice is to only enter prizes that you are confident and happy to enter artwork that you are already doing or already wanting to do. ie. if you don’t paint portraiture and don’t want to, then its probably not a great idea to enter the Archibald Prize. Don’t just enter a prize because it has big prize money or lots of media attention. There are plenty of prizes around and you will find the ones that suit you the best. That said, art prizes can be a great incentive to get motivated and extend your art practice! There are also a number of prizes that are age specific, or ‘career’ specific, so use the opportunities that are there for you, as you build up your artist profile.
Most art prizes have a selection process, that is, the applications are vetted and a small number of finalists are chosen for the exhibition, from which the winner will be chosen. So, being chosen as a finalist is a really good! For well established and popular prizes like the Archibald Prize, being a finalist can be a career launching move. Winning a prize will of course have its benefits, fame and fortune, but can also bring its fair share of controversy and contention. Art and art appreciation is a very subjective matter, and there will always be someone with a different opinion, so its good to keep a healthy perspective on the fickle nature of art prizes. Of course, if you are not selected at all this is also worth keeping in mind, too!