Compiled by Cate Terblanche, Art Curator, Sasol Art Collection

Winning the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition can be a life changing event for any emerging artist and is a much sought-after accolade in the South African art world.  Each year we receive hundreds of entries, but many of these are eliminated in the regional rounds, and often for very elementary reasons. 

We are frequently asked about the lack of individual feedback in the submission phase of the competition.  Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of entries we receive, it is nearly impossible for us to provide individual feedback.  However, many of the artworks are disqualified in the regional rounds based on a number of recurring issues.  In this series of blogs, I will provide you with some insight into some of the common mistakes made during submissions, as well as tips on how to choose and prepare your entry to ensure that it receives the most favourable chance of being selected. 

In this blog, I focus on some of the common reasons why works are eliminated in the regional judging sessions.  


Yup! That’s the biggest reason for elimination!  Every year many works are disqualified due to a simple disregard of the competition rules. Some of these have been potential winners, and it has been gut wrenching to see these works eliminated due to non-adherence to the basic competition rules.  So here are a couple of the important ones to take note of.



Ensure that your work conforms to the size and weight limitations as per the entry forms.   Works exceeding size limitations are automatically disqualified. This includes the time limitations set for video/performance works.  If necessary, edit the video work before entry. 

Note that limitations are stated per work (you are allowed to enter two works), and you cannot combine these and enter one work within the combined limitations.   For example, video works may not be longer than 5 minutes. This means you cannot enter one video which is 10 minutes in length.  


Obviously, all artworks submitted need to be complete, in other words, works in progress are not acceptable.  

This also refers to the various elements of the artworks, such as working parts etc. This is particularly important with installations and video or interactive works.  The artist needs to supply all necessary equipment and must ensure that they are in working order. 


This is sometimes quite a debatable issue, and I hope to shed some light here.  The Sasol New Signatures Art Competition is aimed at emerging artists, which by definition implies that the artist is still in the early stages of their career, and that they do not have commercial representation at the time of the competition. Thus, entrants may not have had a solo exhibition, except for academic purposes. However, the commercial representation aspect may sometimes be contentious.  Some artists have been practicing for many years, and despite not having had a solo exhibition, have flourishing careers, exhibit at various art fairs, maybe even internationally. Often these artists are represented by a gallery or agent.  These artists are no longer considered ‘emerging’.  The onus is on the artist to declare this in their CV.  Although the personal details of the entrants are not shared with the judges, they have the right to examine evidence relating to the artist’s career if they so wish, and may disqualify an entry if the evidence is contradictory to the competition rules. 

Though these cases are rare, there have been instances where entries have been disqualified on these grounds.  If you are unsure of whether your CV might lead to disqualification, ask the Pretoria Association of the Arts for clarity.


While the competition is aimed at emerging artists, a certain level of technical competency is expected. We are after all looking to support the careers of young artists who are set to be the next generation of visual creators and innovators.  This does not mean that you have to be a registered art student or have a formal art education to enter.  Over the years, we have seen many artists without any formal training win various prizes, but they have all had an exceptional command of their art and the works they submitted were of a high standard. 

I would encourage you to browse through previous catalogues for the competition available on the website to critically compare your work to these.  If your work compares favourably, then enter!

At the same time, I think there is value in submitting your work for a competition such as this, no matter how you see your own art.  Putting your art on show is difficult at the best of times, but it can also be an opportunity for growth and improvement.  Do not however be too hard on yourself if your work is not accepted.  Some of our winners have entered for several years before taking the winning prize.  It just means some of the aspects of your work might still need attention. 


This is quite a difficult aspect for many emerging artists, as they often don’t have clarity on the ideas that they wish to express as yet.  These works are normally eliminated when the artist’s statement and the artwork are at odds.  This topic will be covered in a separate blog due to its complexity.


Most works are rejected firstly, due to non-adherence to the competition rules.  Ensure that you read the entry form carefully and adhere to the basic rules and regulations.  Secondly, ensure that the work you submit showcases your technical abilities.  Thirdly, spend some time on writing your statement, ensuring that it echoes the visual aspects of your work. 


Do check out the other blogs in this series which focus on how to choose the right artwork to enter, how to present your artwork, pricing your work and much more.  Make sure not to miss this! 

For more information on how to enter this year’s Sasol New Signatures Art Competition, visit our website and follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube.