How exciting! You've been selected to show your work in your very first solo or group exhibition, and you're not quite sure what to do or what you'll need beyond the actual art? Here's a basic checklist of the things you should be doing to prepare for your first exhibition. Soon enough you'll be a famous artist and you'll know it like the back of your hand.
1. Trim the fat
It may be tempting to want to present all your new art but just leave it to your best work that first into a comprehensive theme. Present similar looking pieces. If you’ve been approached by a gallery or organisation, then you’ll already know the pieces they are interested in showing.
2. Create a inventory list
This is basically a list of the pieces that will be on display, the size and price. Price your art fairly and consider the possibility of commissions that will be shaved off the top. Often times curators will ask you for sizes and prices of certain works before they select it for exhibiting. This ensures the work matches the caliber and size of the exhibition space. Make a word document or spreadsheet with images of the works, and print or send this to the curators when they ask for it.
Related Reading : Profit From Your Art With These Easy Pricing Methods
3. Label everything
If you don’t want to write directly onto the back of your frames or original art, just slap a post-it note on the back that has pretty much the same info as the image card. The title, size, medium, and price.
4. Arrange transportation
Figure out how you're going to be getting to the venue with all your pieces, and how you may get back if not everything sells. If you don't drive and if your art is too cumbersome for public transportation, ask a friend for a favour or take a cab. Also know where the loading zones are for the venue.
5. Get website ready
If your work is dope enough to be selected for an exhibition, you’ll most likely already have an artist website. Make sure it’s updated! Upload all new pics of your new art, and even sneak in a few images of what it looks like hung up on the gallery walls, if that’s possible. If you don’t already have a website. What the heck are you waiting for? Everyones doing it.
Get yourself a Wix account, pick a template and start uploading! It’s really that simple. Other popular website builders are Squarespace, Shopify and Weebly has actually stepped it up lately. If you can’t get to grips with a drag and drop website builder, then Tumblr may be a good alternative. But get online. Facebook in my opinion is not enough. When I look through art submissions, the first thing I look at after the bio is the artists website.
Related: Submit Your Artwork
6. Get some business cards
If you’re going to be rubbing shoulders with some potential buyers, curators, other artists or the general public, you need give them a little token of your work to take home and creep on you. In other words, something for people to have your info, find you (online) follow and contact you in the interest of working with or buying from you.
Not all exhibitions will have an open evening event where you can invite a bunch of people to come preview your new exhibition, but either way they’ll have a space to stack your cards, an opportunity for your contact info to be easily accesible.
So, if you don’t know the first thing about graphic design (which is the art of knowing how to make information look appealing to people other than you) go to Canva.com choose a business card template that matches your style and get cracking. Download your design and go print your cards. VistaPrint is super affordable, good quality and hella fast. I’ve been using them since… forever. If you have a little bit extra in your budget Moo.com is also really well-known for their quality business cards.
7. Have a bio
This does not have to be, and should not be a full essay! It's not quite an artist statement. First of all, I don’t think anyone will be standing around your exhibition reading a full page about your entire life story and the philosophical reasoning behind why art is in your life and how you were chosen to bestow upon us your artistic abilities in this physical realm… Just. No.
A simple paragraph about who you are, where you come from, and what this exhibition is about will suffice perfectly. When you go to the Tate or any other major art space, they just have a short paragraph on the wall about what the artist is about, and then let you walk on freely to interpret your own ideas about the pieces. Your artist bio will be what the organisers will use on their website, social media, and artist cards for people to pick up at the exhibition so make it simple, brief but informative.
My pet peeve as a curator is when an artist tries to be ‘different’ and 'against the grain' and puts something like "I am an artist, I like watermelons. Here’s art about watermelons"
First of all, this might be cute for an Instagram bio but not for an exhibition, no matter how small it may be. Second of all, what if someone came across your art, wants to interview you for some press, and sees that all you can say about your work is "I like watermelons." Do you really think they’re gonna take you on? I mean maybe.. but probably not. Like is said, your bio should be informative but brief enough for people to want to know more about you and your work.
Related Reading: How to Explain Your Art To People
8. Take pictures
For fun and for marketing, but also because not all venues can provide you with insurance for a number of valid reasons. It’s more efficient and commonplace for the artist to insure their own work if there are concerns about something happening to the work while on display.
There are a number of insurance companies out there that can provide insurance to artists. A cost effective option and the one I use and recommend is a-n insurance for arts. It’s £38 for Artists (£16 for students!) for a yearly membership and will include Products & Public Liability Insurance and Professional Indemnity Insurance for up to £5m. If you can’t get your hands on some insurance, then I suggest taking pictures of your work, front back and sides for you to refer to incase anything major does happen to your work. Pictures may also be helpful for insurance purposes.
9. Shout about it!
Be proud! Share your exhibition! Whether that be behind the scenes of your installation, the actual exhibition space or pieces for sale. Whatever it is, take some pics, videos, live streams of you and your hard work and put them all over social media for people to know about your exhibition. Whether they can attend it or not, it’s nice to share what you’re doing and how it looks.
If you found this article useful, share it around, that makes us happy. You can also sign up for our newsletter for more posts like this. And, if you have any unanswered questions, you can send them to email@example.com and I'll do my best to answer them in an email or a post. Thanks for reading, and don't forget to share your art with us by submitting your art or tag #darkyellowdot on Instagram @darkyellowdot
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauren was born in London, but grew up in Canada where she received her degrees with distinction in Fine Arts and Education. Now she's back, she continues her work in creative arts by making art and teaching it, while developing opportunities for early career artists as the Founder of the online platform Dark Yellow Dot.