Rant 58: The Art Lottery

Rant 58: The Art Lottery Antoinette Burchill, The Raffle of Shame, 2010

How much is an opportunity to exhibit your work worth? Do you play the artworld lottery, sending off application fees in the hope you will hit the big time? Does the depth of your pockets directly relate to the success of your art? Artist Maya Ramsay delves into the murky world of application fees.

So far this year I have spent over £100 on application fees to be considered for exhibiting opportunities.

I have only applied for the ‘big name opportunities’, in the knowledge that it is probably a better bet to purchase lottery tickets, but should my numbers come up, it could catapult my career forward. 

Recently it seems to have become de rigueur to charge £40 to be considered for any opportunity, be it a commercial gallery, artist run, or, as now seems to be commonplace, a hypothetical gallery. 

Advertisements abound offering only an email contact, an undisclosed East End gallery location and a PO Box number to send cheques to. Are curating courses teaching ‘The art of masquerading as a decent opportunity to dupe desperate makers'?

Of course putting on an exhibition is costly and once the entrant’s loot has been banked, a great deal of labour is involved in shredding thousands of applications. 

Here is a well known example:

Some 13,000 artists pay between £25 and £50 to apply to be in an exhibition, 500 000 people pay £10 to visit the exhibition. There is no prize money and no fee for the organisers to hire the gallery as they already own it. Unsuccessful entrants don't even get a discount on their exhibition ticket despite having partially funded the exhibition.

Recently I received an email inviting me to be in a glossy book entitled ‘The Best of Contemporary Art’. For just a few hundred dollars I could become an international coffee table artist. 

Success as an artist has always been based on a combination of quality, nepotism, luck and who’s sucked whose pencil. Now it seems that quality and pencils are out and the successful are simply those that can afford to be ‘in it to win it’. 

Is the art world reliant on the myth that we right brainers are innumerate and have our heads in the clouds?

Contributed by Maya Ramsay

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