It sounds obvious but before you exhibit, you have to have work to exhibit. There is enough work involved printing matting and framing the work and organising and framing the exhibition. You don't want to be taking photos during the lead up. BACK TO INDEX
You can exhibit in a gallery designed for hanging artwork or look at alternative venues like town halls, foyers and restaurants. If you use an alternative venue, check that you can put hooks or a hanging system on the wall and check the lighting. Cost it carefully. Hire of display boards for a few weeks costs much more than the most expensive gallery hired for the same period. Installing display boards and temporary lighting is unbelievably expensive.
You can use a restaurant or cafe. In most restaurants and cafes, the work is hung over tables where people are sitting. It is very difficult for people to look at the work if there are people sitting at tables below the work. Sales at most cafe/restaurant exhibitions I've heard of are commercial failures. part of the reason is because the work is difficult to see, partly, I think it's because people don't go to restaurants to buy art. That said, I've held very successful shows at a cafe that specialises in exhibiting artwork. Tables are kept away from display walls to give the visitors room to view. Given the right venue and layout, a cafe exhibit can be a positive experience.
Galleries can be community or government run or private. All galleries have conditions of use. Read the conditions carefully. Some venue insist that you provide someone to sit with the gallery all the time. some venue will evict an exhibition mid-show if the gallery is opened late or unattended. There may be rental charges and commission. Do not expect anybody to charge less that 20-30% commission. A decent venue might cost up to $200 per week + commission. High turnover galleries may charge $150-300 per wall per week plus 60% or more commission. Finding a venue that you don't have to attend yourself is like striking gold. If you find one, hold on to it.BACK TO INDEX
The main costs you will incur relate to -
Producing the prints, matting, frames, gallery rent, commission, promotional fliers, invitations printing, invitation posting, advertising, catering food and wine for the opening, renting display boards and lighting (if applicable).
Here is my formula for keeping exhibition costs under control.
Do you own printing whenever possible. It adds value to your work if you have printed it. Printing commercially? Then shop around. I prefer to pay more for good prints. This definitely isn't the place to scrimp. On the other hand, vast differences in price for identical print quality can be found.
Buy your mat board in 5 sheet packs. In Canberra, Alphamat costs $22 per sheet purchased individually and $15.50 when purchased in 5 sheet packs. Cut your own mats. You will soon recoup the cost of buying a mat cutter. Perhaps you can borrow one from someone? If you want to borrow it again in the future, I suggest you replace any blades you use preferably with a few more thrown in for good measure.
Find a framer who specialises in artists. Order in bulk. Always order extras incase you get multiple print orders, you will need extra frames. Get your friends to share the bulk order of frames.
Gallery rent & commission
Shop around up to two years in advance. Consider rent and commission together.
If you don't need colour, don't print colour. High quality B&W photocopies cost 1/20th of the cost of colour photocopies.
Printed invitations look great. Do they work. At the art centre where I teach, I've seen the backs get used for note paper more often than I care to mention. Print as few as you can get away with. Colour invitations are very expensive. See note above on colour printing.
Only post invitations to people who have a realistic possibility of coming to the show. A person I know was running a small group exhibition in Canberra. Invitations were posted to people all over Australia and around the world. Great for the ego but it won't help the exhibition attendance one iota. Cull your mailing list carefully.
Produce a high quality jpeg invitation attachment that you can email to people. Don't annoy people with multiple mailings, don't email until 24-72 hrs ahead of the opening. Old email gets forgotten quickly.
Advertising & Promotion
It's hard to blow your own trumpet but you have to do it. My friend who posts invitations all over the world is a mediocre photographer who has mastered the art of self-promotion. As a result this person has a reputation way better than they should have. On the other hand, I know some fantastic photographers who have no reputation because they don't self-promote. I hope I have found the right balance between the two.
Catering food and wine for the opening
Depending on your budget, buy wine in bulk and far in advance. Look out for bargains during the year.
Renting display boards and lighting (if applicable).
Don't do it. It's really expensive. Find a venue with display walls and lighting. In Canberra, the Canberra phootgraphic Society rents out display boards for $200 per week. Commercial hire companies rent display boards for around $2000 per week.
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Regardless if you are a professional or amateur, you shouldn't expect to make your pile at an exhibition. If you recover costs, you are doing very well. An exhibition is an artistic and self-promotional exercise not a profit making one. Don't forget to charge for all the costs, especially your time. Massaging your ego is great but selling a heap of under priced work is not the way to do it.BACK TO INDEX
Pay attention to detail. Marks on the mats, avoid torn corners, dirty glass and dust under the glass.BACK TO INDEX
Less is more. Don't crowd work on the walls. Have a well-spaced exhibiton. Better to let people go away wanting more than to have them get sick of it and walk out before they look at everything. BACK TO INDEX
Get yourself a decent opening speaker. If you work on this in advance, people are often only too happy to help. Politicians are listed on the parliamentary web sites. Each politician has a peron in their office who organises their diary. Call them, check if the dates are free then write a polite respectful letter. Use a similar approach to gallery curators, directors of art centres or office bearers of photographic and art groups. They are often only too willing to help.
Catering - less is more. You don't have to provide dinner for people. If you are short of money, make your own dips. Chop carrots and celery instead of buying expensive crackers. BACK TO INDEX
Produce a quality press release. Use the inverse pyramid model for the press release.
1st Line Who What Why Where When
2nd Line Your contact details
3rd line other
A clear press release goes a long way. A polite letter to the arts editor of your local newspaper doesn't hurt either. Use email sparingly. When you do use email, make it count. I have found that one clear succinct invitation or promotion email sent 3-5 days before the opening is most effective.
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