Ethical Guidelines for Juried Shows (1975)


National Artists Equity Association, Inc.


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Ethical Guidelines for Juried Shows

Action Kit No. 7


The exhibition sponsor is responsible for informing artists fully before expecting a response regarding participation. Among the details furnished should be the following: location; all pertinent dates, such as those for receipt of forms, work, slides, and pick-up dates for rejected and accepted work; the type of show, specifications for size, medium, theme, geographic limitations, whether juried or invitational, qualifications of entrants, presentation requirements for work, whether ready for hanging, framed, and the like. If prizes are offered, these should be described. The identification and qualifications of the jurors should be enumerated.

Costs of Exhibitions

The exhibition sponsor should be responsible for the costs of mounting the show. Artists Equity is unalterably opposed to artists bearing the costs of exhibitions by payment of entry fees. Many alternatives exist for financing shows. A sponsor may charge admission and thus share the cost with the public, as is done in the performing arts. A sponsor may also obtain grants, either from Foundations, Arts Councils, or from interested members of the business community Arts organizations have found many ingenious ways of bearing these expenses, such as gala openings, sale of specially commissioned editions of prints, cash bars at openings, and the like. The sponsor may, in addition, recover costs by taking a commission from artists sales. This is a more equitable approach since it involves sharing the financial risks of the exhibition rather than putting the major burden upon artists.

Insurance and Security

Exhibition sponsors should assume responsibility for the safety of all work while it is in their keeping. Insurance and security should be provided. The only exception might be made in the case of an exhibition of short duration where artists are present with their work throughout.


The- exhibition sponsor should be responsible for adequate public relations coverage, including invitations, brochures, catalogues, and mailing, as well as costs of reception if there is to be one.

Delivery of Work

The artists should be responsible for delivering work within the specified times and limitations. Paint should be dry, and work packed so as to avoid damage. Careful attention should be paid to the requirements of the exhibitor with respect to framing, matting, and the like. The sponsor should attempt to make delivery as convenient and efficient as possible.

Packing and shipping costs for long distance shipping are negotiable. It is suggested that for invitational and travelling shows the cost be paid at least one way by the sponsor.

Hanging of Work

Hanging of work should be at the discretion of the sponsor. Work should not be removed nor hanging changed during the exhibition without the permission of the artist, nor should the latter remove work before the final date without permission of the sponsor.


The exhibition sponsor, if handling sales during the show, should be responsible for all credit risks; otherwise, they become the responsibility of the artist. Whoever handles sales is responsible for charging and paying the appropriate sales tax.

Rental Fees

Exhibition sponsors who are primarily engaged in business other than the sale of works of art should pay a rental fee to artists whose work they use to attract the public to their places of business. This does not preclude their taking commissions from sales. This is not a contradictory policy; the principle is one of shared risk coupled with payment for a service rendered.


Artists and sponsors are urged to establish a contract initially so that confusion regarding responsibilities is minimized.

Charitable Contributions

Exhibitions are frequently sponsored by charitable organizations who seek to fund their various causes by asking artists to contribute works. Charitable, political, and educational organizations seeking to raise funds by selling works of art are no different from other sponsors, and should not request artists' contributions larger than those made by other types of sponsors. It is wrong to expect artists to contribute more than a reasonable commission, especially since they may not deduct the costs of such a contribution beyond their cost of materials.

Juried Shows

Much controversy rages among artists regarding the suitability of jurors. To insure that judging be as free as possible from prejudice and outside influence, Artists Equity makes the following suggestions:

Judges should work independently and not cancel each other or influence each other. They should have sufficient time with the work. Similarly, committee members or museum staff should not influence judges by their remarks, or by placement of the objects to be judged. So far as possible, without violating the aesthetics of a work. the identity of the artist should be withheld.

The selection of jurors should be assigned to those with proper qualifications and training, such as museum specialists in the fields to be judged. To provide for some checks and balances, artists organizations could submit lists of possible judges for various events. An artists' committee working with a museum can greatly aid this kind of agreement. Local judges should be avoided because of possible prejudice.

Rental of Space

Exhibitions are often held, especially in out-of-doors fairs, in which booths or spaces may be rented for a fee by artists. The artists select, arrange, show and sell their own work. AEA believes this practice is not contrary to our ethical principles since it is analogous to renting a shop for sales. Artists should examine such opportunities carefully and weigh the advantages, publicity, comfort and protection of space, and so forth before deciding whether or not to rent space in a particular sales fair.

The Problem of Jury Fees and How to Sove it

As we mentioned earlier, the number of shows that charge jury fees at the present time has grown so much in recent years that one almost despairs of turning the trend. Yet it must be turned if artists are to take their proper places in the mainstream of American culture. When important museums and exhibiting organizations perceive strong, and best of all, organized opposition to these practices, they find other means of supporting their shows. Artists Equity has traditionally opposed jury fees. Colorado AEA was instrumental many years ago in persuading the Denver Art Museum to abolish fees. Recently, the national organization lent support to the Upper Midwest Artists Association in a successful bid to have fees removed from the Red River Art Center Annual in Minnesota. The California chapters have been instrumental in getting the Sacramento State Fair to stop charging fees. The New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts does not charge fees when it has open shows. It can be done.

Here's how: When artists receive invitations to take part in juried shows that charge fees, they should inform their local AEA chapter, if there is one. Other artists' groups that have similar principles should also be informed and letters from the organizations should be written expressing opposition. Individuals should also write letters. If you can, convince well-known and distinguished artists in your community to support you. The most effective means by far is a strong organized stand, preferably by several groups together. A copy of the letter should be sent to your local newspapers, especially if the exhibiting sponsor is a museum, supported by public funds. In your letters, funding alternatives should be offered since it is important to recognize that institutions have great problems raising the funds to handle their expenses and you should offer them help, not just criticism.

Members of artists' organizations should be urged not to submit work, but AEA firmly believes that no member should be coerced into withholding work from a show which that individual wishes to enter. That is a choice each member must make, but he or she should understand that Equity is against such shows in principle. If any artist hears of an important national or regional show which plans to charge a fee, that artist can write the National office of AEA and our Executive Director or National President will be happy to send a letter supporting our stand against fees, together with a copy of our Ethical Guidelines for Juried Shows. Please keep us informed of your progress in this struggle.

Artists Equity Association, Inc. 1975

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