Oh the pleasures of running an open call and being on the receiving end of it all. Now we’ve been very loud and vocal here about out policy in terms of open calls and how they work, the complete and utter cynical scam that is the pay a gallery a fee just to submit a simple e.mail scam that so many galleries and organisations run as they very cynically exploit us artists at thirty quid an e.mail. Read about all that in previous blogs, it is something we have no intention of shutting up about (why so so many of you artists fall for it?). As we’ve said before, our policy here is not to work with galleries, organisations or indeed artists who run these cynical scams. We’re artists ourselves, one of the reasons we originally set up Cultivate was because, on the whole, galleries and their attitudes towards artists frustrate and annoy us – all those £30 fees here and £20 fees there just to open an e.mail in response to an open call and all those “One Hundred Artists Who Were stupid Enough To Pay To Be In This Book” scams, those “Hundred Best Artists” book things that the art media seem to fall for – you know the ones, no need to name them here, not in a hundred years, catch me over a couple of beers and I might name a gallery or two, you know who they are, you know the zeitgeist, they’re rather blatant about it, they get away with it again and again, why do artists fall for it!?)
Running an open call is (on the whole) a positive pleasure, opening the submissions is mostly exciting, we’ve found some brilliant artists via our open calls. Sure, it takes a bit of time, sure, it means looking at lots of art and exploring artist’s websites and taking the time to reply to people, it can make for a late night or two going though mountains of submissions and yes there can be a time-waster or two, but we love running open calls, it really is exciting. We’ve found some excellent art and some inspiring artists via our calls, we really really do enjoy it, the e.mails and entries, it excite us, as do the resulting shows. Open call shows are a vital part of what we do here at Cultivate and they should be a vital part of what most galleries do.
But there are downsides, it is never enjoyable to have to say no to people, never nice to have to reject an artist. We try to be gentle about it but sometimes it can be hard and it can result in a rather unpleasant e.mail or two fired back in our direction (usually personal comments about this or that), but hey, being rejected isn’t nice however politely we might do the rejecting, I can understand someone’s need to fire a “f**K you, what do you know!” e.mail back at us, I can live with all that, making art is an emotional thing, rejection is awful. But it can be very annoying when an artist has failed to follow the simplest of easy to follow instructions in the first place, when an artist has failed to follow the simple instructions and submit the simple information required and on top of that, the artist goes and sends in a rather dull set of frankly boring images along with a dose of bad attitude.
In the case of our latest open call, an open call for an on-line show, one of the very obvious requirements in terms of our latest on-line show was that the artists submitting work should have a website or at least an artist profile somewhere on-line. Somewhere where we can go find out more as we go through the submissions, and more importantly, so we can add that vital website link as a signpost to an artist’s website and to their art, links that allow our viewers and visitors to the our on-like show to go explore more about the selected artists featured in that show. A very simple requirement and surely a rather obvious one for an artist wanting to take part in a group show that is only going to be on-line? If you have some artistic objection to the notion of a website then surely that extends to not wanting to be part of an on-line show? Or maybe if websites really ate something you object to then put up a minimal one-page image-free website with a simple one line statement saying so – make an artistic point of not having a website. Don’t just tell us you don’t have a website and can’t be bothered with having one and don’t be dishing out bag loads of bad attitude and sending unprofessional e.mail after unprofessional e.mail telling us how to suck eggs when clearly dont have a clue and you’ve been rather politely rejected, don’t be making complaints to places like the Artists Union about how we at Cultivate treat people when you’ve sent us a bag load of rude abuse as a follow-up to you very unprofessional submission that didn’t have the required information needed in the first place.
The open calls we run, (and we’ve run lots and lot now, I think we know what we’re doing at this point, we can suck eggs with the best of ’em, not that we ever want to suck eggs), the open calls we run, are always publicised on our website, via our social media pages and feeds, via other platforms like the Curator Space website or the Art Council mailouts, we also mailout to everyone on our gallery mailing list, we make it very clear to artists well ahead of the deadline that we have an open call happening. Our latest open call was on-line for over two months before yesterday’s deadline date, so don’t be making complaints because you didn’t bother reading or looking, you had many many opportunities to get your act together and get your submission in, don’t be shooting at the messenger because you didn’t get your shit together weeks ago Tania.
It is exciting opening the e.mail submissions, we’re always full of hope, anticipation, and that hope is so often rewarded in brilliant ways, we encountered some exciting new artists this year via our open calls shows. But then sometimes you open an e.mail and the image(s) you see are rather dull and unexciting, you encounter something you’d never dream of including (something that would probably do the artists no favours if you did), the image submitted is bad, and on top that there’s no website link (even though you stated you required one) so you can’t go explore what the artist is about or who she is or what she might have to offer (for it was a very rude she in this case). Sometimes all they submit is a dull uninspiring image and an even duller CV that amounts to nothing more that a tediously boring list of past group shows mostly at places that run those cynical shows we were talking about earlier.
So you’ve already gone though lots and lots of e,mails, you’ve already been excited by some, you shout to other people in te room to come have a look, “hey look at this one, this one is excellent!”, you answer the e.mails you say yes to the good ones, you politely say no and try to give a constructive reason and some encouragement to the ones that aren’t quite right, some you simply have to just say polite a no to and give a brief explanation. You process the information from the ones you’ve said yes to, sort out the images (sort out the size, label them properly, so so many people send in images that they haven’t named or labelled and oh gawd, not another one that’s just named “image.jpg”!). So you take the time to make sure you have all the correct information logged, it does take a little time (nowhere near enough time to justify charging artists just to open an e.mail though and don’t let any gallery argue otherwise!). So you spend quite a bit of time looking and logging and responding and going through it all. some you say yes to straight away, some you leave for a few hours or a day or two and then go take a second look or a third before you say yes or no. Email after e.mail but the good ones keep you going, And so you get to that next e.mail submission, the one you were dreading, the next unfriendly message with the boring image and the dull list for a CV you didn’t ask for in the first place, and no sign of the link to a website you clearly said you required so you could go find out more, you get to a point where you really can’t be bothered if the artist can’t, so you politely say something like “sorry, not really doing it for me and you say don’t have a website so we can’t go find out more, we did say we needed a website, best wishes, good luck….” and you hope that’s it, you hope they take it with good grace….
And you hope that’s it, you hope they take it with good grace…. But no, not this time, this time Tania has to reply with a moaning e.mail telling us we didn’t give her enough time (she signed up to the gallery mailing list via the website almost two months ago, she’s had the mailouts, I assume she explored the website and looked at the open call page when she was there on the site joining the mailing list? Or that she checked out our social media or that she’s been back since to see if there was anything new happening? I send her a short polite reply telling her we first announced the open call over two months ago and sorry, she had time and that we really need a website link and that really sets her off, that results is a non-stop onslaught about how badly we treat artists and the other things going on in her life right now and how she;s an artist and how bad Cultivate is how she was rejected before the deadline when we should wait for the deadline and put her submission before a full panel of artists, what does she thing this is? The Tate? Are we sitting here in our brown suits and cotdroy ties with a bunch of old farts for a selction panel and a clipboard in each hand? We’re very open about who and what we we are, abour what we do and how we do it, this is punk rock, not twin sets, cups of tea and selection panels. were very obviously not that for flip sake! This is not the Summer Academy Summer show, and if we ever start doing things in that way then you have my permission to shoot me, if fact if you ever catch me taking part in anything like the Royal Academy Summer show you have permission to shoot me!
She goes on and on about unprofessional ways of doing things and how she’s been badly treated and how we don’t care about artists, all this from a so-called “artist”who has no website, submits nothing but a tedious list of dull shows for a CV and a frankly rather dull boring image that wasn’t in any kind of way good enough to be included in the current show. We try polite explaining, we even try Googling her name or trying to find her on social media so we can explore her art a little and give her some constructive feedback (we can’t find her). on it goes, she replies with more bullshit about how we treat artists badly and don’t run our open calls properly and don’t know how to run a gallery, about this and that, about the price of fish and how all the famines of the world are down to us. Eventually she’s told what we really think of her dull submission, het boring CV and her lack of a website, she comes back for more and accuses me again of being rude, believe me I held back, I wasn’t rude, well maybe a little after all the provoking, I edited what I really wanted to say before I sent it. She’s sent rude e.mail after rude e.mail rubbishing everything we do, she clearly has no idea or any kind of clue, but hey, she went to art school ten years ago (see, I read her tedious CV list) and she was is a group show in some gallery in South london last year so whatever we know she clearly knows a hell of a lot more about how ot do things.
Today Tania has busy making complaints to the Artists Union and god knows who else, she’s sending edited versions of our communications and I’m frankly thinking why do we bother with these people? Why should I care about other artists? Why should we bother trying to open doors for other people, for other artists, why bother supporting their need to make art? Why should I give two shits about other artists? Why should I put up with all this crap, why should we waste our time, why bother running group shows and open calls? Why should I take the time to answer all these pushy artists or people who think an open call is a competition or send in out-of-focus badly labelled j.pegs, why should I take the time to politely answer and encourage people who clearly have no ability or clue? Why should I waste so much of my painting time? It isn’t like any of the artists we actually do include in the shows ever return any of the support we give them. I could count the thanks yous without using up too many of my fingers, I don’t think anyone had ever turned around and said thanks for including us on your shows, here’s something we’re doing that you might want to come join in with? I don’t think the support has ever been a two-way thing even from the artists we regularly feature. If we do get a thanks, then it goes something like “thanks for the leg-up and the support, I don’t need you anymore, so you can f**k off now…” What was that Joshua Compston once said about just being the aircraft carrier that everyone lands on and then takes off from again…
Bur I love curating group shows, I love running open calls, even when Tania comes along with her crap or Julia says I don’t need your aircraft carrier anymore, you can f**k off now, I love finding exciting new artists and showing their work, we all do here at Cultivate, art excites, running shows excites, open calls are exciting to run, and all the bullshit from all the rude artists in the world can’t take away that feeling when you have it all hung and people react and get excited.
So no Tania, we don’t treat artists badly here, we treat them bloody brilliantly, we go way out of our way to help artists and treat them right, we hang their work on our walls, we put up with late delivery or making us wait for hours while they collect art hours after they should have done, we go fetch their art when they can’t get their shit together to deliver it themselves on hang day (never did get a thanks for doing that, that particular did the “I don’t need you anymore” thing not long after we went to her house and then carried her paintings back to the gallery ourselves). We put up with so much with these group shows but no Tania, we don’t treat artists badly here! We have uncollected art cluttering up or space for months afterwards when artists don’t bother collecting it, we put up with their abusive e.mails and their rewriting of history when they want to claim their first solo show was somewhere they think is a better namedrop that our name. We go out of our way to support and help our fellow artists, especially those try to get thier first footholds. Wwe write about aritist and their art and their shows via the pages of Organ, while the rest of the so-called art media out here ignore most of what’s going on, we spend ages publicising what you artists doing, we spend time going to the shows in other galleries and then writing about those shows, who else does that? We tell people about the artists and their art, we recommend them to other galleries and then never get a thank you or hear from them again, we do far more than most for our fellow artists and we try to treat artists in a way we want to be treated as artists ourselves. We don’t exploit artists with fees just to submit e.mails, we don’t put their work in any old show hung in any old badly lit way, we don’t claim our shows last for two weeks then only open for a weekend before heading off on holiday (that really did happen with a show in a gallery down Vyner Street that people paid an arm and a leg to be part of), we don’t charge unreasonable commissions or don’t bother doing any publicity on the shows because we made the money out of charging the artists already – we don’t treat artists in the rude arrogant way that so so many galleries do, we don’t treat artists in the way so many artists so often treat us! We treat artists brilliantly until they push us too far, and so Tania, with polite respect, you can f**k right off with dull submission and your tedious list for a CV and your lack of a website and your clueless attitude and your complaints to the Artists Union about how we treat artists, you clearly haven’t got a scooby doo about anything much, Cultivate is about artists coming togeher and doing it the right way, enough withe being polite, from now on we treat people the way they treat us…
We love running open calls and group shows, the Marks show will go live on Monday evening, the next open calls for both the next gallery show and the next on-line show will be along in a moment, as will the next invitations to the next show that will feature some of the exciting artists we originally found via some of our previous open call shows. We love sunning open call shows, but don’t take it for granted, don’t take it for granted, things are getting tougher and tougher for artists out there, you need things like Cultivate, we all do….