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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.

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9 thoughts on “An open letter to all artists not selected for The Cheaper Show

  1. Great article, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.. FYI – we do send a personal note to all applicants before publishing live. Regardless tho, it’s become fierce competition with more than 1200 submissions this year. It is really hard turning away so many talented artists!!

  2. I went with my best friend who had applied last year and she didn’t find out till the night of the announcement party in front of her friends and family – talk about brutal. I’m glad they’re at least learned something in 10 years.

    Lets be real here this is another great example of a vancouver art clique:

    Greame is affiliated with the lab magazine and the founder Justin Tyler Close was picked – shock!

    Zoe Pawlak worked on the cheaper show last year and was selected this year – shock!

    • Hi Chris,

      A very valid point about last year’s reveal, although as Steve pointed out the artists were sent a note in advance this year. Perhaps this was based on feedback?

      Regarding an “art clique,” I can’t say either way. What I do know (from the website) is that Jessica Delorme curates the show, not Graeme or Steve as far as I can tell. It makes sense that they would employ an independent curator so that there would not be a conflict of interest.

      Further, I do know of specific artists who are very close friends with Graeme and Steve who applied and were NOT picked for the show last year or this year. So it could just be a coincidence that some people closely involved in that community were picked for the show (there are a ton of fantastic artists in Vancouver, and it’s not that big of a place).

      Then again, I do not know anyone involved enough to say for sure. Thanks very much for your comments.

    • Hey Chris,

      to clarify – Graeme and I have absolutely no part in the curation process. We had the job of turning down over 450 local artists and you can believe that Graeme knows a great deal of them. We’ve gone to great efforts to be as inclusive as possible.

      You’re pointing out 2 artists out of 200, out of 1200 submissions… c’mon man. you seriously think it’s possible to NOT know any of the 200 artists especially with how much we actively attend and promote art shows and events in this city? We posted up about over 50 independent shows last year on our blog.

      And as for our announcement party last year – yes we know – that sucked. We learn as we grow..

      Thanks Kate for your comment.. couldn’t agree more.

  3. It’s easy to get caught up in the selection process, but I think anything that draws attention and support towards art is a good thing – big picture. It’s not often/never that you see people waiting in a 9+ hour line up for art (myself included)!

  4. Pingback: Create More, Then Edit « BENTZEN

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