I never thought how much preparation may be required to make an exhibition happen before I started organising one…
The choice of location and venue is maybe one of your most important decisions that would define the success of your exhibition. Of course there are several things to be considered – budget, timing, ease of access, popularity of the gallery, the interior space, the support offered.
In terms of cost you would need to decide what is best for the type of exhibition you are making. For instance a venue in a prime city location that is heavily promoted, may require a fee for a day that equals to what a less-known studio in a more distant location would offer for four weeks. You would need to decide whether the people that are going to visit your exhibition for a day in one of the gallery would potentially be more than the visitors you would have in four weeks in the other one.
You would need to choose the most suitable time of the year for your exhibition – when more people are likely to visit. As for the opening night Fridays and Saturdays seem more appealing to me because most people wouldn’t want to attend an event on Sunday – they will have to be back to work on Monday.
It’s quite important to see how your artworks will fit into the space – how many pieces you would be able to display, would they be presented in the best possible light. You may also want to consider decorating the space to add to the atmosphere – but you would need to check if you are allowed to do so with the gallery.
Ease of access – it’s great if the gallery has its own parking space or there are parking spaces available in a walkable distance. The closer to the city centre, the better, this would also drive footfall into the gallery.
It’s great when the team of the gallery offers you assistance and are willing to promote your event and answers all the questions you may have. Luckily in my case, they have been most supportive and offered reassurance, ideas and lots of useful hints and tips to prepare for the exhibition.
Artwork preparation time
You would need to decide how many artworks you would like to exhibit and where to print them. And on what type of paper to print them. And whether you can afford it. I used on-line company for ordering my prints called SPECTRUM and I am very satisfied with the quality. I first ordered one ‘test’ print on Hahnemuhle German Etch paper and then committed to printing the rest. My cat managed to destroy one of the prints by jumping on top of it and scratching it. And such things happen so my biggest recommendation would be to leave yourself as much time to prepare as possible.
This is probably the most expensive part of your project: frames. One of the best advice I’ve ever got was about choosing the right frame – putting your artwork in a cheap frame would de-value it. The frame should be an extension of the artwork, it should complement it beautifully and speak for the quality of work. A high quality frame could be the difference between £30 and £300, or why not even £3000. So, if you are to compromise at any part of your project, don’t choose this one. I used a local company and again, first ordered one frame and when I was sure the quality is excellent, ordered the rest.
You simply can not afford not to promote your event and expect it to turn out successful unless you are already so famous that all the media would die to write about it. What I decided to go with are fliers, posters, business cards, A-Board, Facebook event page, invitations for special guests, e-mail newsletter and targeted Facebook advertising. I designed and ran everything myself which saved me some of the cost. The Gallery are most helpful in distributing a number of the print promotion materials. Writing a press-release and sending it to local and national media is also a good idea.
You may want to transfer the messages and spirit of your exhibition through the interior as well. A little touch here and there can sometimes make a big difference. Whether it’s a wall decoration, tablecloth, a vase or hanging elements, it all shows attention to detail. You may also want to get a guestbook to receive feedback from the visitors and keep it as a nice memory.
Most exhibitions would have an Opening Night when the guests would be able to learn more about the project from the artist, to hear their story and to be the first to see the artworks. It’s commonly accepted that there are drinks and canapés provided. Things you would need to consider is number of guests who have accepted the invitation and the type of expectations they would have for the night. Usually you can relay on advice from the management of the gallery.
You would need to ensure you have arranged transport for your artworks, whether that’s your own car or hired company. It’s essential that the photographs are very well packaged – I bubble-wrapped all of my artworks for this exhibition. On an Art Fair two weeks ago I didn’t and this resulted in two destroyed frames. Surely I am not willing to repeat my mistake.
I think for this part it may be best if you wait my post-exhibition thoughts. That’s when I would know whether it’s been successful and what I could have done better. This is also the moment to ask for your opinion – if I’ve missed anything or if there is something I should definitely try. Thank you, all, have a beautiful evening.