You are an self-represented artist in the beginning stages of your career and you’ve booked an art show on your own, congratulations! Whether you have a solo show in a fine art gallery or are part of a collective exhibit in a skate shop, there are a few things you need to consider and prepare before, during, and after the big day. If you still have questions or concerns, be sure to double-check with the person that booked you.
You will need to assemble a body of your artwork that will represent you in your absence and speak on your behalf. Think carefully about the pieces you choose to exhibit if you have limited space, and even if you don’t.
Consider the type of venue you’ve been booked with because some pieces might be a better “fit” for the demographic frequenting it. If you win over the majority, chances are you will make more sales. If you’re to show in a quaint cafe where food and drink are served, consider leaving that one gory surrealist piece titled “Ode to Bloodshed.” If you’re booked in a Witch-themed gift store in Salem, MA, maybe skip the painting of adorable puppy Golden Retrievers piled on top of a bed of daisies out of this showing. Get the drift?
Preparation of Placards
Once you’ve selected some pieces you will need to create placards for each. If the venue takes care of placards, just have this information ready to submit upon their request:
- ”Title of Work”
- Artist’s name (that’s you!)
Depending on any contractual agreements, the venue might handle commission and contact between you and patrons, so you may or may not need to include the following:
- Price – Take note of our “How to Price Art” post if you need help pricing your work!
- Contact information
ArtVenue, for instance, handles show bookings, artist placards, sales transactions, and hosts artists profiles. Their placards include all-of-the-above information. If you are in charge of creating your own placards, Alyson B Stanfield’s article on exhibit labels is quite useful, so take a quick read before you whip some up.
Preparation of Pieces
Make sure your art is display-ready, whether you outsource the manual labor or take the task upon yourself. Brass must be polished, glass must be wiped, photos must be framed and paintings must be wired and ready to hang! If you are required to bring display or hanging materials, make sure you have them in your possession at least the day before. Some venues might not allow you to hammer nails in their walls, or they might have a hanging system already in place – double-check the situation, always. Cite our previous “How to Hang Artwork” article if you need additional help!
Preparation of Press
Extra, extra, read all about it! Get the word out there. Create an event page on Facebook, invite your friends. Notify people via email. If you have extra cash to spend, create postcards of your art with all the details of the show and distribute them the week of the show. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of self-promotion! If you have a few left over, bring them to the show and use them as business cards for people to remember you by.
Depending on the venue, you might be required to submit an artist statement. If you haven’t written on already, refer to ArtVenue’s post on how to write an artist statement.
A Helpful Hand
No man is an island, and in this case, it is good to bring a friend to lend a helping-hand when you install your artwork. It’s always useful having an extra pair of eyes making sure your paintings are level and evenly spaced. The artistic mind can be a scattered one, so bringing a more objective mind along can be a huge help.
If you are part of a one-day event, stick around so you can interact with everyone. Someone could have a question about you and your art. That one 10-second interaction could be the difference that turns a passer-by into a long-term fan who is genuinely interested in your artistic career and progression. The more you engage and show people you are serious and passionate about your art, the better reception and impact you will have in the art community.
If you’ve booked a showing at a place that hosts monthly installations, first of all, good for you! Secondly, check in every now and then. Make sure your stack of artist cards is full, or if the venue has any follow-ups for you.
Expect people to become your fans, fans you will want to keep! Make sure there is a way to gather their information, whether its a physical sign-up/mailing sheet or a submission page on your website. If they contact you, gather and organize their names and email addresses so you can keep them informed of all your artistic endeavors. If you haven’t considered starting your own newsletter, now is the time to! There are plenty of reasons to have an art newsletter, and that extra outreach to a fan could end up in an everlasting and reciprocal art relationship.
Start making plans for your next show! Seize any and every opportunity you can! The more time & effort you put into your career, the more pay-off you will receive in the end. And, as with any hesitation or question you might have about something, seek the help and advice of others. Good luck!
Happy showing and art’ing, friends!