Work in Progress

Judging open competitions is very similar, no matter what the criteria are or where the location. The judges judge each other then hit their stride. It's important that each judge feels confident about his or her own judgement but it's striking - each time I have done such a job - how a rhythm is established. Almost a joint voice is achieved.

The rejected work becomes unanimously so, not because a habit is formed but because a consensus is created when you all become aware of the overall feel, weight, flavour of the submitted works. This is particularly true when an exhibition, with all its checks and balances, is also being created. Works are rejected when they are simply sui generis: the bravest or the most original of a "type" will be selected.

That is another crucial stage in the subtlety of group judging, which is establishing everyone's integrity. But we really weren't that solemn because we knew and trusted each other, though had never worked together as a group. There are 1001 ways of saying "no" or "out" - a certain "gallows humour" evolves, a professional joke syndrome to cover up how hard it is to reject well-meant entries, rather the way doctors or lawyers cope with their big decisions through humour at inappropriate moments.

This grows alongside a firm conviction that, having spent years and years looking at works of art of every possible quality, it feels really quite clear when it's good, bad... and the rest. Long experience teaches you that you are not always right - a chosen work might be an aberration on the part of the artist -but that the process is both cruel and fair. And a privilege to be asked to undertake.

Gill Hedley Director of The Contemporary Arts Society, London

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