Sunday, August 1, 2010

Charlatan Ink Prize?

Dear Benny,

Have you heard of the Charlatan Ink Prize? (What a name!)

I received an invitation to this in my email and because I get so many invitations to "vanity" shows, I was immediately skeptical.

This may be perfectly wonderful and all, and maybe it's just my general nature to be suspicious, but who is Charlatan Ink? My Googling efforts turn up nothing but entry after entry of this particular promotion itself. I can't find anything on their site about their plans for exhibition other than a vague reference to "the exhibiting Gallery/Exhibition Space".

The prize is evidently in its "inaugural year." Has anyone ever heard of these jurors? $50 per entry is a lot of money.
-- E. D.

Dear E. D.,

I did quite a bit of checking. This sounds at best like a conceptual piece from which the organizers hope to make some money. The jurors are simply friends of the two artists running it it. None of them has any "weight" in the art world. Normally, these big entrance fee competitions have a very prestigious list of judges -- which is one of the ways they can draw entrants.

The "sponsors" are not really sponsors; they are companies which are providing some services in exchange for having their names mentioned. One of them is even an outfit run by one of the organizers. None of them are real art world or business world "names."

The main question for any artist is bigger than, "Is this legit?" The main question is: "Is this worthwhile?"

There are too many red flags, here, one of which you mentioned: there are no Google references not prompted by the organizers themselves. The have no history.

At $50, it's not worthwhile, legit or not. If the judges were more prominent, if the sponsors were connected with the real art world or the real big business world and the production were more professional, it might be worthwhile. If the entry fee were $10, it might be worthwhile. As it is: too many negative points and not enough positive ones.

The only positive point is the $25,000 first prize, but we have no way of knowing whether it will really be awarded and, if it is, will go to a real entrant or to an organizers' spouse, relative or friend. They say the names of the artists will not be know to the judges, but that means little. I have served on a number of juries and quickly recognized the work of people whom I knew personally or whose work I knew. (I tried to not let that influence me.) And even if everything is on the up-and-up, there is no telling if they'll get enough entries to even cover their costs. These sorts of things seems simple to people who have no experience doing them, but the pitfalls are many and they always take a lot more work than imagined.

Actually, the size of the prize is one of the things that puts me into the doubting column. No other prizes for individual artists are this huge in the first run of a contest, with the possible exception of those offered by large non-profit foundations or by foundations set up by the survivors of an artist who has established the prize in his/her will.

Bottom line: no compelling evidence it's a scam but no compelling evidence it is worthwhile to enter.


  1. Thanks for this post, it is really helpful.

  2. dear benny,

    as one of the founders of Charlatan Ink LLC New York i simply want to rectify your statement about the jury: apart from Bing Dawe ( one of New Zealand's leading sculptors and visual artists, and my brother in law ), none of the other jurors are friends of mine or of dariusz solarski.

    furthermore your statement about the jurors 'weight' in the art world is maybe correct, if you use yardsticks like bill henson or bill viola, but all seven jurors have in one way or another their importance in the art world; from Marlene Antico ( patron to the Paddington Art Prize ) to Anthony Lister to Peter Gric to all other four.

    furthermore we also have an advisory board which includes artists like Michael Hutter, Chris 'Creed' O'Hanlon; Hazel Dooney; Leith O'Malley, Philip Brooker and Richard T. Scott.

    and if that doesn't satisfy you we also have Shephard Fairey on board.

    there are too many people involved to be a scam ... yes, it is true that we are unknown and obscure in the art world, but we are for real and we will be here for a long time to come.


    Andre van der Kerkhoff
    1133 Broadway, Suite 708,
    New York, N.Y. 10010
    phone 212.330.8214

    47 Ludwick Street
    Cannon Hill, Brisbane
    QLD. 4170
    phone +61 7 3899 8414
    mobile 04248 62 722

  3. Who won last year? There is no mention or a photo gallery of past artists who won?

  4. it's a pyramid scheme. You have to pay on entry. Also, they were sending me spam links on twitter. Not cool.

  5. Hi Andre,
    Don't listen to the idiots above. This is a great project and as you know many "important" people are behind it and checking for the results( the 29th, soon) . First at all ignore the "anonymous" (they just don't count) a bunch of cowards who can't even post there real names...
    And as for Benny Shaboy ( what a name!) I'd like to sue him if I could, for what? for slander 1st and for being misinformed 2nd. Sorry I couldn't sue him for being an idiot negative frustated soul who sees scams in everything (part of his own frustation as a human being/ artist?)
    We love and trust your project.
    Hugo Ariz (Artbreak Gallery)