8 things to consider when preparing first exhibition

So many of you asked about my first exhibition so this blog will be dedicated to just that.


Introduction


Ok, so you have arrived at a decision to exhibit your artwork. Awesome! The world needs you! Below are a few tips on how to prepare for it so that nothing gets in your way and escapes your attention.


8 things to consider when preparing first exhibition


1. Collaborate where possible




You may be surprised to know that there are artists out there keen to collaborate on art projects such as exhibitions. Some established, others new to art. Do not for a moment hesitate to enquire if any of them would be interested in collaborating with you. An established artist may be looking for an inspiration. An emerging one, for a person they can partner with. And the one who is yet to embark on the art creation journey, for that encouragement and mentor support. It is always easier to do things together. And practically speaking, it will cost you half of your time and money if you decide to share the exhibition experience.

If you do decide to go down the partnering route, regular calls are a must to keep the project going. The calls will be your arena for project discussions, planning, feedback, reporting on actions, rehearsals, comments, critique, and occasionally a good old moan:) The devil is in the detail and these calls will keep you on track.


2. Select the venue.


When thinking about an exhibition, a vast gallery space with large white walls springs to our minds. But often people either haven’t got access to such spaces, or they cost an arm and a leg. Look for art spaces for hire on websites like tagvenue.com, venuescanner.com, or hirespace.com. And consider other spaces too. Your audience will probably enjoy seeing your art in an unusual setting. I did mine at a small venue that is used for exhibiting food: https://gff.co.uk/event-space/.

Once you have secured the venue, decide on the exhibition date. Ask around which day of the week is best for locals who browse around and may be interested in your art, and avoid seasonal holidays if your audience is likely to be away that time. Enquire with local stores which day of the week is the busiest. Participation rate is very important, especially if this is your first exhibition.


3. Work on your art


Now that the exhibition date is set in stone, work backwards to see how much time you have to finish your collection. Remember, it is not only the art pieces that you will have to work on. You will also have to dedicate time to regular calls, planning and actions, marketing of your collection and exhibition, and anything else that you will need to make your exhibition happen, which in my case was exploring ideas of how to present my artwork.


4. Collection


Think what you are planning to exhibit. Your work should be coherent, holding somehow together, themed, and taking the audience on your journey as an artist. While making Inspire & Be Inspired, I discovered how important it for me was to maintain uniform sizing and black-and-white tone of the collection.


5. Marketing


Plenty of work, I can tell you. It is overwhelming, but you can do it, and it will be useful for your future art adventures. However, if you consider this may be too much for you, there are people who can relief you from this burden.

As for the exhibition, the key marketing products and tools are: catalogues or flyers, business cards, other marketing materials like notebooks, t-shirts, bags, postcards, a website, and at least two other social media. It is up to you how far you want to go with it. Marketing firms will help you develop your marketing materials, offer design options, suggest a preferred format, produce and deliver the products for you. I found Vistaprint.com and their support team just right for me.

The catalogue should contain all the collection that will be on display, some information about the art pieces and how the collection was developed, prices are handy, and of course your contact details.


Next, work on your website and social media. Polish the gallery page and ensure the order taking page works well. Run editorials on all marketing materials to avoid mistakes and last minute stresses. I ordered a large number of flyers only to discover a spelling mistake a week before the exhibition!


6. Planning of the big day


Your artwork is ready (or nearly there) and your marketing is sorted out. Now plan the big day. Your friends and family are your biggest supporters, ask them to get involved. There will be a lot of work, but it will be fun.

Write down everything that comes to your mind. The venue: it should be easy to find. Help your audience with locating it. On the day of my event I found out that there were two buildings with the same number on the same street...damn London! Engage your imagination in planning: upon arrival, the audience should pick up flyers and business cards. Then their attention should be caught by the best art piece, the gem of the exhibited collection. Think where you will position it. From there, the eye should travel through the rest of the collection. Think of your drinks and nibbles. You want the nibbles to be light. And yes, think about the kids. People have kids and you can expect them too! Think how you will keep them occupied. A sofa in the middle of my exhibition venue right in front of a projected art video unintentionally did the trick!


Consider how much time you want to dedicate to the exhibition. If it is a pop-up show, you will certainly not want to waste too much time on preparatory or cleaning jobs. In case of a longer lasting exhibition, try to be at the venue every day or else provide a good briefing to a person who will cover for you.

Consider presentation of your artwork which may have to be adjusted depending on the type of your show. For a pop-up show, poster prints and metal backdrop photo frames proved to be a good solution.


If you only have a few hours the lay out and cleaning, your artwork has to be easy to handle and you will need some helpers. Otherwise, decide on framing, hanging and lighting of your art pieces. Rehearse this plan before the exhibition, and share with the helpers and the venue manager.


7. Exhibition day


The day of the exhibition has finally arrived. Enjoy it! You earned it and waited so long for it. Go and mingle. Don’t forget to gather feedback!




8. After the exhibition


Take a moment to write down all the critique (positive and negative), all the action points, and spend a moment reflecting on all that. Think of everything that went terribly wrong, and that went well and is worth repeating. Remember to thank those who attended the show, and write to those who missed it or could not make it, as they still would like to know how it went. Share the feedback with the venue. Swiftly action all the order requests and keep the buyers updated on regular basis. There is nothing worse than lack of news on an order placed. And fix all the things that failed you on the day.


Final words


And remember, this is not the end! While everything is fresh in your mind, plan the next experience. Pick up on any ideas, follow up on invitations to collaborate, set objectives which you would like to achieve, and go for it. You did it once, you can do it again!

All the very best to you!