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Memo by A.S. Grigsby for Vancouver Art Gallery Council Meeting, October 20 1944


Re: 13TH ANNUAL B.C. ARTISTS' EXHIBITION

     In connection with the abovementioned exhibition, it should be noted that adverse public discussion to an unprecedented degree has resulted from the selections made by the Jury which was elected last May by members of the Association. As a result of a ballot taken in respect of nominations previously secured by public announcement, three artist members, Mr. Lawren Harris, Mr. C.H. Scott, A.R.C.A., and J.W.G. Macdonald, headed the poll by large majorities. The result of the election was announced in the May issued of the Bulletin and the names of the jurymen also appear in the exhibition catalogue.

     Immediately following the issue of rejection slips on September 21st we received a number of telephone calls, personal visits and letters, all couched in terms of protest at what these complainants considered to be the unduly large number of rejections. Among our correspondents may be noted the names of Mr. C. Stansfeld Jones of Deep Cove, Mr. V.R. Timms of Vancouver, Mr. C.J. Turpin of Victoria and Mrs. Dorothy Williams of Kamloops. Many letters have also appeared in the correspondence columns of the local newspapers.

     Furthermore, on October 4th we received a letter from the Better Business Bureau of Vancouver informing us that three persons had visited their offices to make various charges against the Jury and the Gallery administration and asking us to furnish an explanation. Mr. Norman Usher, a member of the Gallery, who is on the executive of the Better Business Bureau, has made certain investigations on his own account, which have been embodied in a memorandum handed by Mr. Usher to Mr. T.W.B. London.

     The general tenor of all complaints received up to the present appears to be that the people concerned consider that many more pictures could have been hung, a course which if adopted would, they seem to believe, have resulted in their own particular contributions finding a place on our walls.

     On Saturday, October 7th an advertisement presumably inserted by Mrs. Agatha Pearce of West Vancouver appeared in the three local newspapers asking rejected contributors to contact her. Apparently as a consequence of this advertisement an exhibition of rejected pictures is now being held in Galloway-Dorbils bookstore, 942 Granville Street, a fact which has been announced in paid newspaper advertising. Some fourteen would-be exhibitors in our show have contributed thirty paintings, the majority disclosing a very low standard of achievement.

     As a large part of the complaints received are concerned with the personnel of the Jury for this exhibition, it should I think be remarked that arrangements for the election mentioned at the beginning of this memorandum were set on foot in consequence of a decision arrived at by the Exhibition Committee on November 13th, 1943 that exhibition juries should in future be composed entirely of artists. The Committee's report was adopted by the Council at its meeting on November 19th, 1943 without discussion.

     Acting on the instructions of the President, I have addressed a questionnaire regarding the method of selecting exhibition juries to the following art galleries and museums: Toronto, Seattle, San Francisco and Portland. In addition a similar enquiry has been addressed to the Ontario Society of Artists.

     In his reply, Mr. Martin Baldwin, Curator of the Toronto Art Gallery, stresses the point that juries acting for American art galleries, of which he has been a member, usually consist of three people, an artist, a museum director and an art critic. In nearly every case, Mr. Baldwin states, these juries are drawn from localities other than that in which the gallery concerned is situated, their travelling expenses being paid by the gallery. He seems to think that this plan has worked well.

     Dr. Richard E. Fuller, Director of the Seattle Art Museum, states that he appoints the juries which consist of both artists and laymen, in the proportion of three to two or four to one. Seattle's rejections are stated to average 70%.

     Dr. Grace McMann Morley of the San Francisco Museum of Art tells me that the Association elects the juries, which consist of five people, usually artists but in some instances an art museum director or a prominent art critic have also been elected.

     In conclusion, it might be mentioned that protests in regard to rejected work are no new thing in our experience. This year's abnormal agitation may, it is submitted, be ascribed to the fact that many of the people totally rejected for this exhibition had their work hung in last year's Non-jury show and therefore feel aggrieved that they are debarred from exhibiting again.

(signed) A.S. Grigsby
            Curator

October 20th, 1944




Memo provided courtesy of Vancouver Art Gallery Library

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