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The 2023 ‘de Young Open’ is Open for Submissions! Here’s How to Apply

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Wide view of salon-style hang of white walled gallery with hundreds of colorful paintings and artworks alongside each other.
An installation view of the 2020 ‘de Young Open,’ the triennial's inaugural show. (Photo by Gary Sexton; Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

In June 2020, artists of the nine Bay Area counties were invited to submit images of their work to a novel, somewhat radical experiment on the part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Over 11,000 artworks later, a jury of local artists and museum curators unveiled the The de Young Open, an exhibition of 877 pieces arranged salon-style in the museum’s lower-level exhibition spaces. It was a joyous explosion of local art at a time (October 2020) when we desperately needed beauty, color and ways to express the pent-up emotions of our pent-up pandemic lives.

Now, the museum is at it again, and The de Young Open is officially a triennial, scheduled to open Sept. 30, 2023. What started as a way to acknowledge local talent and fill space when traveling exhibitions came to a halt now seems on its way to becoming a beloved Bay Area institution.

If you’re artistically inclined, there are plenty of reasons to throw your hat in the ring! Pros: it’s free; you get to have your work seen by a team of eight curators representing subject areas across the institution; sales result in 100% of the proceeds going to the artists; and you could end up with a museum show at the de Young on your CV. Cons: I truly can’t think of any!

While the de Young curators will take the first pass, Bay Area artists Clare Rojas, Stephanie Syjuco, Sunny A. Smith and Xiaoze Xie will make the final selections for the exhibition.

Before you click through to start your application, here are the most important things to know:

  • The application is open June 5–18, or until they reach 12,000 applicants, whichever comes first. So don’t delay! The museum expects to hit 3,000 applications by the end of today.
  • You can submit one artwork only. (This is a change from 2020, meant to allow more artists to enter.)
  • Artists must be over 18 and full-time residents of one of the nine Bay Area counties. (You will be asked to present ID at the artwork drop-off, don’t fudge this one.)
  • Your work will be juried completely anonymously, so if you’re submitting a video piece, make sure your name isn’t anywhere in the video, or you’ll be automatically disqualified.
  • There are very specific (but generous) size and medium limitations. Follow these rules! In fact, this is one instance where I encourage you to follow all the rules. Especially the ones about optimal JPG size.
  • Once you start your application, you have one hour to hit submit, otherwise you’ll be timed out and lose your work. Since one section asks for an “artist statement” (700 characters maximum) that will accompany the work online if included in the show, I suggest gathering your application materials — artwork title, dimensions, medium, artist statement, hanging/installation instructions — in one place, then copying and pasting them into the application. (You can also edit your application until the open call ends.)

For all the fine print, read the full submission guidelines and watch some delightfully informative “how to” videos on the museum’s application portal.

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That first massive show in 2020 offered direct proof of the copious artistic talent that calls the Bay Area home. I can’t wait to see what discoveries emerge from the 2023 Open.

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