Blog: Should Art Be Democratic?

Christine Alfery

Posted on February 24 2018

Blog: Should Art Be Democratic?


Recently when I received a rejection notion for one of the national exhibitions I applied to one of the judge’s comments caused me to pause and really think. He said, “art is not democratic, I chose works that I liked.” Whoa – I said to myself and many things rang through my head. The judge was a photo realist watercolorist – he was not going to choose anything that wasn’t photo realistic. That meant; note I never submit for the judge I just submit works I think are good personally, that perhaps my acceptance into all these national exhibitions has not been based on merit but on democracy!

I know that some of the criteria for national exhibitions is to have a well-balanced exhibition. Should that be the case? Is that how we value art? Or do we value art because we honor its uniqueness and originality? I know that for the most part most watercolorists that enter these things are realists. I know that for the most part the two major watercolor societies, The National Watercolor Society and the American Watercolor Society, are made up of mostly realists. And die-hard watercolorists; defined as no raised surfaces on the sheet of paper, for a lot of these watercolor societies, in order to survive I think; and not in order to be democratic they started including the category of acrylics as a water-based paint. Raised surfaces changed many of these societies and then add on top of that conceptual or abstract work (no content) wow it seems that is a difficult one even for the above judge.

So, two of the questions to myself were:

  1. Was my work accepted based on merit or based on democracy? For me I wanted it to be based on merit – I worked for it. How do all of you feel, democracy or merit?
  2. Is how we value art and place art in art centers and museums throughout the country based on honoring the uniqueness, the authenticity, the originality of a work of art? Or do we value art because we because it is well balanced?

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