Art awards, and whether or not to submit to a show, have been a debated theme here on Muddycolors and in the industry in general of late. Arnie Fenner covered the symbolic importance of awards in his post Do Awards Matter. And Dan Dos Santos covered the career importance of awards in his post Rejected!
Today I would like to pose a third value of awards in art.
I propose that art awards make the world a better place. They compel us to strive for something greater than our current abilities.
In 1732 Pope Clement XII held a competition among Rome’s artists to see who would finish a fountain begun in the previous century by Bernini. Competitions like this were quite popular during this era and resulted in some of the most impressive public architecture and sculpture in the world today. Many artists submitted wonderful and daring designs to win Clement’s competition. The result is what you see above, one of the grandest public works of art in existence.
Competitions have a long and vibrant history in the art world, from the Prix de Rome to the Paris Salon. While competitions have historically been unfairly judged by biased panels, the result has still always been a flowering of artwork and artistic ability which has improved the understanding of art culturally overall. This has benefitted all of us by giving us a strong artistic heritage and visual language that we use to both communicate and understand ourselves and our fellow man better.
Because of this I believe that the existence of judged competitions (with awards) should be celebrated. Every year I try my absolute best to get into Spectrum… and every year I get pieces rejected. Through this process I grow and become a better artist.
But what if I lose? Won’t that be a crushing defeat for me?
NO. LOSING IS NOT DEFEAT.
LOSING MEANS YOU NEED TO PRACTICE MORE.
And is that such a terrible realization? We aren’t perfect and to do anything truly well takes serious dedication. To be an artist means that you have dedicated yourself to being able to do something well that an average person cannot do well. To get there we need more practice.
Losing is not a refutation, it is a challenge.
I believe the real prize is being better able to do the thing you set out to do. And isn’t that what we as artists all wanted to begin with? To be better able to share our vision with those around us?
If the attempt at an award compelled you to achieve something greater than you knew you were capable of and made you a better artist (and it will) how is that not a victory?
It isn’t always fair, but that isn’t the point. Every year I can’t wait to open up Spectrum. Why? Because I know that thousands of people have pushed themselves beyond their abilities for this and I know that what I am about to see will move me, inspire me, terrify me and challenge me. My world is made brighter because of what they (you!) have tried to accomplish.
So… Look, what if I don’t want to have to work for it? Can’t I just pay off the right people?
Maybe, who knows?
BUT YOU WILL NEVER HAVE WHAT THOSE WHO TRIED AND FAILED HAVE.
In conclusion, I discourage attempting to corrupt appointed officials, and I encourage you to enter these competitions. Even though it will cost you money and you might fail.
I believe it will not only make you a better artist but it might also just make the world a better place.