The “Sportification” of Art

Why is art “sportified” with competitions, judges, and prizes awarded? Over the last few decades, this sportification of art has become the popular norm in the low to middle-market art world. Some of the reasons for this competitive art culture include:

  • Artists desperately seeking external validation for their work, especially new artists.
  • Art competitions are perceived as necessary to build an artist’s CV and authority in a competitive market.
  • There are more artists and art now available than at any point in history. Competitions are perceived as a way to stand out in a sea of art/artists.
  • Art collectors need external confirmation that they are purchasing “quality” work from “reputable” artists.
  • Competitions are money-makers for galleries and organizations with fees.
  • They bring attention to the organizers and allow them to engage new audiences.
  • Art is a perceived pathway to exhibitions.

What these competitive shows ultimately do is:

  • Take power away from the artist and collector and put it in the hands of a third party (curators, jurors, museums, galleries, critics).
  • Commoditize art and drive prices down (see downward price pressure and free market economies).
  • Discourage artist business communities and collaboration due to competitive fear and scarcity mindset.