Exhibitions - All the suprises

This isnt a how to guide..

...This is a blog on all the things that made me want to scream, so that if you come to doing your own exhibition you can be prepared.

Why exhibitions if they can be stressful?

I have only done 3 exhibitions and I am booked up for a 4th, but so far it has already been a huge learning curve, for me the reason to do exhibitions is exposure, sales and experience. I am not going to pretend like I am some kind of expert on this, I am just writing about my experience and what I have done.

Having your art hung on the wall of a cafe, gallery, anywhere, gives you exposure to people who may not have found you online. I only recently set up this website so unless people found me through word of mouth or social media I had no other exposure.

This helps with the whole 'gaining experience' so you cangain knowledge, you can look at what you did well, and not so much to make adjustmernts for next time. You can asses what work people likes, what sold? And look any feedback from any customers or visitors of your exhibition, you might want to consider leaving a comment book if you can, (something I forgot to do at my last solo one but will do fo the next one!)

And last sales, this is pretty self explantory, to keep doing artwork, to keep exhibiting you have to eventually make some money to cover your costs, and to maybe make a living?

Where do you start?

My suggestion would be to make a list of about 10-15 places in your area that hang art on their walls, have a search onlie, ask friends, then send an email out to them all.

In your email you just need to outline that you are a local artist looking for exhibition space, ask them is there a criteria and a cost for hanging work in their cafe/shop/exhibition. In reality you may only get a response from 1/3 of them, I sent out around 15 initially and this led to getting 2 of my exhibitions out of the 3. I know someone who has done a similar thing with play scripts and they said not to be disheartened, as you are unlikely to get responses from places that receive a lot of enquiries or are not looking for anyone.

It might also help to include a link to your social media/website along and a photo of your work in the email, I started my separate Holly Merry Art instagram so that I could use it as a link in emails before I set up my website.

You then just have to send them all out and wait, fingers crossed you will hear something, keep an ear and an eye out for other opportunities and take what you can. My first one was in the basement of a cafe, and although it got no sales, it was free and is still something I can add to my artist resume and it helped me gain experience.

I did some research online when I first started and most people say the same thing, start with cafes, this also just generally seems like a good starting point. Well established exhibitions are unlikely to take on new artists (unless that is what they support) and may want more established artists with more experience that are more well known.

How do exhibition prices work?

So I have found out through looking at different venues that do exhibitions that every place works different, some places offer you a free space with no fees, fantastic! Some places with ask for a set price for an amount of time to use all their space, or a price per piece (there are places that cost £500 up for a week per piece).

It might be a set amount of time for example, £200 for 2 months, or it might be pay per week for as long as you want to exhibit. Another way it is done is by the curator/venue taking a percentage of the sales, so they might take say 35% of any sales (so won't need any payment unless you sell).

What you prefer to work with is really down to you, I personally prefer to pay an upfront cost that I can work into my art prices, I handle the sales and I know exactly what I'm making as sales are made (as with my most recent exhibition). Even though this is preferred I wouldn't be fussy or picky at the moment about how exhibition spaces work, if I can get there and afford it, I will do go for it.

So you have your first one booked..

One thing I found is that everyone is very different in the planning of the space,  I have had the experience of working with people who have been very organised. They have know exact dates of when the work has to be at the venue, they know the ins and outs and it has been very professional.

I have also had the experience of working with people who have been very vague, not letting me know what's happening until the last minute and not letting me know how long the work will be up for. This can be very stressful and puts me off working with those curators in the future, as someone with anxiety issues, I try to minimalism these sorts of situations that cause unneeded stress.

I 100% recommend that if you have control over where your art is going to be placed in the venu, (if it is a solo exhibition) that you take a few trips to the location to make a plan. Draw up a sketch for the day, so you can be prepare as possible and in your head visualise where everything will be, does it have a flow? a theme? do certain pieces need to be displayed together? Are there areas of the space that might work better with one piece but not another? These are all things to consider when it comes to the wall placement of your work.

Its also worth asking them how the work is hung, this way if you need a hammer and nails you know to bring them!

Ask how they prefer sales to be arranged, if you are organising sales they may be happy with taking cash for you and letting customers remove the piece from the wall there and then. If they want the exhibition up for the entire time with all pieces then they may ask that you organise for work to be collected or posted after the exhibition has finished.

You might be working with someone who will do the name tags fror you or you might have to do your own, you can find lots of examples of how to do them online. I like to keep mine simple and easy,

  • Name of the piece
  • medium used
  • price
  • how to purchase (Only for if you are handling sales, I tend to put my email address on)

There are a lot of hidden costs that we dont nessesarily think of at first, for example all your art will need framing, may need mounts and will need fixtures to hang (some exhibitions require specific fixings).

Once you have all your work framed then its time to add the hanging fixtures, this vide0 here is supper helpful and taught me how to use D rings to hang my work. This is the standard fitting I add to all my frames, I a D ring for A4 and larger, anything smaller I use a staple gun the hold the wire and twist it the same way as shown in the video.

You are almost there!

My advice would be just try and be as prepared as possible, when its time for your work to go up, again depending on the venue they may just ask you to drop your work off (most likely if it is part of a larger exhibition.) But you might aslo be asked to hang it yourself, so make sure you are ready with anything you need and don't forget your floor plan!

And thats it! once your art is up you can chill out a bit, if they are dealing with sales then just awaint instructions on when the art comes down/sales etc and if you are then keep an eye on your email box for any customers!

Best of luck

- HMA x



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