This Amateur Got His Art Accepted Into A Contemporary Gallery

Julian Baggini walked into a museum and thought, “Well I could do that!” And unlike pretty much everyone else in the world, he actually did.

This Amateur Got His Art Accepted Into A Contemporary Gallery
[Image: Ellsworth Kelly via Jorn Pilon / Shutterstock]

How hard is it to get a piece of contemporary art shown in a museum? British writer and philosopher Julian Baggini has found himself underwhelmed by the seeming lack of formal expertise that goes into contemporary works. Like many non-artists, he thought, Well, I could do that. Unlike the rest of us naysayers, he set about proving that he really could. He entered three of his own photographs to the Royal West of England Academy’s annual open exhibition in Bristol.


Lo and behold, his work made it past the first round of judging, and one photograph, called “untitled,” was selected in the final round.

Baggini explains why he thinks it’s easier for amateur artists to compete with professionals these days:

In visual art, the rise of abstraction means that we now appreciate the aesthetic merit of what are, in formal terms, very simple arrangements of shape, colour and texture. Someone with a good eye can potentially come up with such an abstraction and need very little skill to execute it.

However, he acknowledges that there’s more to true art than technical skill:

It has become possible for more and more people, often untrained, to express their creative imagination as doing so has become less and less dependent on technical expertise. However, not everyone can have the ideas, the eye or the ear to come up with something worth making real. That core of invention remains elusive, beyond most of us most of the time.

Baggini declined to let us post his photograph, but this is artist Kelly Rakowski’s interpretation of his work. The original can be found here.

Despite his initial triumph, Baggini didn’t exactly accomplish what he set out to do. Even though his work was deemed worthy of a spot on the museum wall, the photo never made it up. It was one of a few of the jury’s selections that were not hung or listed in the exhibition catalogue. “From now on, the work shall be known by the designation it was given by the academy: ‘Selected, not hung,'” Baggini wrote in a story for U.K. newspaper the Independent.

Baggini refused to let us post an image of his original artwork on our website (saying, “I’m a freelance writer and I’m not prepared to allow profit-making sites to use my work unpaid”), so we humbly submit it be renamed “Linked, but not posted.” See the original work here.

Read more about his experience in the Independent.

About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut.