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Chicago Art and Artists in the Archives of American Art

No-Jury Society

In the early 1920s artists in Chicago were clamoring for democratic, independent exhibitions. The No-Jury Society, founded in 1922, was one of the longest-lasting answers to this need. Unlike exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago, where a jury would decide which artworks from the submissions pool were worthy, any artist was guaranteed inclusion in the Society’s exhibits for a $4 fee. In their first catalog, they explain the impetus for their democratic approach: “it is…a historical fact that these juries have created and maintained a high standard of mediocrity and have, without exception, almost suppressed genius.”

First annual exhibition of the Chicago No-Jury Society of Artists, 1922 catalogue, 1922.
First annual exhibition of the Chicago No-Jury Society of Artists,
1922 catalogue, 1922. Rudolph Weisenborn papers, 1919-1977.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

This advertisement for a costume ball hosted by the No-Jury Society was designed by society member Emil Armin and shows a who’s-who of the Chicago art world at the time.

The parade of the Chicago artists to the No-jury Artists cubist ball, 1923 October.
The parade of the Chicago artists to the No-jury Artists cubist ball,
1923 October. Emil Armin papers, 1922-1977.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.