Worthing Open exhibition proves ongoing success

With a different selection panel, it would, of course, have been a completely-different exhibition.

Preparing for the exhibition
Preparing for the exhibition

And for Emma Walder, curator of Worthing Museum & Art Gallery’s ongoing Open 16, that’s precisely the fascination.

The exhibition, which runs until Saturday, March 25 in the Main Gallery, attracted exactly 400 submissions from which around 140 works were selected for display by a panel of three. Art lecturer Susan Sanders, artist Delaine Le Bas and councillor Elizabeth Sparkes were the selectors, with Emma working with them.

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“I think the thing I like the most about doing an open is that you never know what you are going to get because it is all down to the selection panel, and even when you think you know what the selectors might like, you can never really guess!

“But they worked really well together, and there was never a problem. Sometimes it can be really slow getting decisions to start with with a selection panel, but I think they realised with the quantity of entries we had, they had to get on and make those decisions quite quickly.

“And they didn’t disagree really. Sometimes one of them would really like a piece that the other two were not so keen on, but they would always stop and discuss it at that point, and in the discussion one of the other two might have been swayed – and we would always go with the majority. That was the reason for having three selectors.”

The result has been an exhibition impossible to predict, but one Emma is delighted with: “This year there is definitely much more of an expressionistic selection, it seems to me. It seems to me as if really bold pieces have been selected, and they have definitely been very keen on the more expressionistic styles, although obviously other styles have been selected. But it has just struck me that what they have gone for is quite a bold and bright and vivid selection this time around.

“Other years they have been more traditional or, at least, there has been a bigger element of the traditional.

“The other thing that has been different is that there has been a lot less than usual 3D stuff. 3D work entered is usually a lot less than 2D work and so the selectors have generally tended to be more generous towards it, but this year I think they have kept things at a much more consistent level.”

Emma admits the whole thing has been hard work: “It is a fairly epic undertaking. The thing that has been the biggest headache has been the labelling, but it is definitely worth it in the end.”

Part of the fun is that everyone who entered the open was invited to the private view: “It is all part of the spirit of the event.

“We had quite a number of criteria, but essentially it was an open exhibition for anyone living or working in Sussex to submit work to go through the selection process.

“We started advertising in May or June, but didn’t open for entries until the end of August and then we closed at the end of October.

“We had 400 submission on the dot.

“The last open we did was in 2013, and that was our busiest open until then when we had 350-something entries. This is quite a big chunk of an increase.

“I suppose it was because we advertised it quite early and also the fact that we have not had an open for three years, which is quite a long time ago now.

“I had also been mentioning it to local artists, just spreading the word by word of mouth.”

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