It seems we live in a competitive world that pretty much dictates over much of our lives. So my question is, does a competitive environment advance art? Does the best art come from the most competitive artists? This is an issue that greatly disturbs me because it carries with it a degree of elitism. If I can’t compete at a high level, then my work can’t possibly be good.
I’m conflicted over this since there are many reasons for an artist to compete and not all of them bad. First off, every time I go to the galleries I compare my own work to what’s hanging on the walls. I’m my harshest critic, after all. I compete with myself every time I push past what I have previously accomplished. This is good competition, as I see it. It’s the only way my work advances.
With artists competing to get into juried exhibitions and galleries, it’s just not possible for all to succeed every time. A friend of mine recently entered a juried show where five hundred artists applied, yet only twenty-four artists were accepted. Does this mean all rejected work was inferior? I hardly think so. Still, entering these shows is a good way to advance a career. These exhibits give an artist exposure, and most of all, build resumes…which galleries and buyers require.
I admit I’m a competitive person on some level, but I also recognize it’s no fun winning if you have no one to share it with. It’s inside a community of artists that techniques should be shared and ideas brainstormed. It’s the only way I see to make sense of the ups and downs of an artist’s life. The support of other artists helps create an environment that makes everyone’s art better.
So my conclusion about competition in the arts is still undecided. Since competing in juried exhibitions is a way to get your work seen in museum or gallery settings, it’s a necessary evil we artists have to contend with. The trick is not to take the juried shows too seriously and to not let anything or anyone interfere with the excitement of creating the work itself.