For aspiring, but not yet well known or well connected artist, there are countless possibilities to get that precious exposure in today’s connected world. One of the best options when starting out are websites like Curatorspace.com (primarily UK and EU focused), where one can apply for various open calls for exhibitions, artist collaborations and the like.
The pros are quite amazing, considering how international collaborations looked like before there was any internet, or even before the postal service existed (you can now get a show abroad by only applying to an online application form on Curatorspace and maybe a few follow-up emails, to make the necessary arrangements). But, and there always is one, there are cons that don’t necessarily stand out as much as the positive aspects of such amazing collaboration infrastructure.
One of the more underlying issues is the sheer amount of artists, who can now apply to such open calls and with such a supply, naturally the demand becomes more picky, meaning the specifics of each open call don’t just stop at “only painting submissions” or “we only accept video and new media works” but can be as narrow as “only blockchain-based figural video works, not longer than 2 min will be accepted”.
And sure, those artists who normally make works that fit snuggly into such parameters will of course happily apply, but those 80% who don’t, but still make figural videos or blockchain-based art (just not in video form) will either be forced to look for another open call or to adapt their work to fit the description. And here’s the big issue.
One could say that the market decides what is good and in demand and what is left out, but the size of the open call playing field still isn’t so large as to accommodate all of the gazillion different artworks being produced by artists today and sooner or later one does find the number of open calls has ben exhausted and is left with only 2 or 3 really good fits. But 30% 40% or even more are left on the table, merely because we were unable to tick all of the check boxes the curator/organiser of the event requested.
So we can decide: have a go at 2 or 3 and try our luck (granted our options of getting selected are better because of how well our art fits in with the concept) or tweaking our work just a bit so that we can apply to another 20 or 30 that were almost a match. And if (or maybe when) we decide to go down this road, we might just find compromise after compromise, though small each time, altogether they can heavily affect our focus, even our style and longterm production.
The point is, beware of the wonders of open calls; while they surely are amazing opportunities for young and aspiring artists to get exhibited abroad and even sell some of their works to foreign collectors (especially for those of us who live in countries with art markets that aren’t as evolved as those in the US, UK or China), we should be vigilant not to let the specific tastes, expectations and concepts of those organising such events and shows influence or even dictate our work too much. It’s ok to listen to the market and to try-out new things that show potential, but staying true to ones personal style and philosophy is essential for standing on firm ground in today’s hyper-productive creative field.