In the last decade, The Cheaper Show has grown from a small, hand-made art show into a sensational one-night event. The formula is tantalizing in every way: the exhibition is popular with artists as submission is straightforward and open to anyone, and acceptance now means massive exposure. It is popular with Vancouver because people get the chance to see and buy an amazing array of local and international artwork, most at a fraction of its value. The frenzy that now characterizes The Cheaper Show is no surprise, neither are the line-ups to get in, the quality art that is hung in the show, the press coverage, the crowds, or the red dots.
The announcement of artists for The Cheaper Show is equally sensational. Instead of corresponding individually to artists who submit, the reveal is starkly public. Yesterday, a video was released on The Cheaper Show website listing the artists who will be included. That means that the majority of artists who submitted (as The Cheaper Show only selects 200 out of approximately 1200 submissions) learned of their rejection by watching a list of names go by, without theirs on it.
I have personally never submitted to The Cheaper Show, but knowing that the video was a rejection letter to 1,000 artists made me cringe. Maybe because I know all too well how it feels to not get the part, or not make the team. I felt compelled to write this post to remind any artists who might be feeling poorly that rejection is an essential part of an artistic practice. People tend to read anything into rejections: “my work is awful, I’m a bad artist” when really it can mean anything from “we already have too many painters” to “your work is good but it’s not the right fit for this project.” Furthermore, if you’re not getting rejected, you’re not submitting to enough venues. As difficult as it can sometimes be, learning from rejections is what grows a stronger, more experienced artist who has resolve about the direction of their career.
What does not kill me, makes me stronger.
-Friedrich Nietzsche (qtd. from Kanye West)
A juried art exhibition isn’t based on facts or formulas. It is curated by an individual or group who studies all submissions and makes choices based on various factors including mandates, goals, opinions, and taste. Rejection from a jury or curator is not synonymous with “bad,” just as our common sense will tell us that acceptance is not necessarily synonymous with “good.”
My advice to all artists not accepted to The Cheaper Show: don’t feel bad. Go to the show, enjoy the work that is up, meet people, and have fun. Cheers to all the artists accepted, and cheers to all the artists rejected.
I’ll end simply with this: a letter from the Museum of Modern Art rejecting a proposed donation by an artist named Andy Warhol.