How to Survive Your Art Exhibition

Updated on December 13, 2017

Exhibitions can be very intimidating for new artists. They may seem impossible to do without the funds and resources to back them up. And if you get into an exhibition group or solo, if your time isn’t managed correctly, or communication isn’t as effective as it needs to be, an exhibition can end up being a very stressful struggle with few rewards. So, as I reflected on my recent exhibitions, I have compiled some things that I wish someone told me when I first started.

Organize your time wisely and make sure to get on top of burn out.

The Lead Up Is the Most Stressful

Organize your time wisely, make sure to get on top of burn out. A few days before the exhibition I was ready to just quit because I didn’t organise my time as effectively as I could have. Know what you want to put in there, but be realistic about what you can achieve in the time frame. Be flexible and accept that some pieces may not work out.

Have a Clear Vision for Your Pieces and the Exhibition

If it is a group exhibition make sure to be on the same page as the rest of the artists, to have a cohesive theme and movement to the exhibition. Previewing the space is an important part to having a clear vision, too.

Seek Independent Opinion

While it’s important to be proud of your own work going into an exhibition, take the time to get some feedback from others in the field. Some pieces I didn’t like at all were loved by others, and the curator asked specifically for them to be in the exhibition, and some of them sold.

Document Your Pieces

High quality photographs of your work are a must. Often galleries would like to have them for advertising purposes, but it is also important for your portfolio, website and promotional material. It’s extremely useful to have a record of your artistic timeline, including the medium, technique, and date, so you can look back at what you have done.

Start Advertising Early

Utilise all social media platforms you have. Are you a regular at a cafe? If so, ask to put some hard copy invitations out to advertise to the public. You can also ask and distribute them at your workplace, if it’s suitable. Don’t forget to invite your friends and family. Not only is it great to share such a special event with them, it helps bolster your promotion through word of mouth as they tell their friends and family what they are doing, both pre and post event.

High quality photographs of your work are a must.

Dress to Impress

Dressing for the event is an importing thing. You want to fit in with the crowd and seem successful, rather than coming in the regular clothes you use to create your art complete with paints (or whatever your preferred medium is) covering them. Dress up for the occasion. If you dress to match the majority you are likely to feel more comfortable and confident when talking with people about your work.

Know Your Work and What You Want to Say About It

Be prepared to talk about your work. Have an “elevator pitch” and an idea of the frequently asked questions you may get. Some of the ones I had: ‘do the patterns mean anything?’ ‘how did you make it?’ and ‘what is your process?’ Even if you aren’t well known, your friends and family may have some questions, along with other artists who have an interest in your work.

Eavesdropping Is Okay, Sometimes

My favorite part of the night was eavesdropping on people’s conversations about my art. It provides a genuine insight into how people are responding to your work, and you will get opinions you probably won’t get face to face. It is made especially easy when people don’t know that you are the artist. If you are bold enough you could instigate a conversation with them on their thoughts of a particular piece, and play the part of someone who is just there to see the exhibition.

Enjoy the Night

There will be a lot of emotions. You might feel relief that it’s over and done with, but also sadness as you come down off the high. Take some time to re-energise and focus yourself. When you are over the huge rush, and whatever down time you might have, don’t forget to reflect on what went well, what you enjoyed the most and what could have done better. Thank the people who were key in your success and then if you are ready, move onto your next project.

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