Every year when an art exhibition is approaching, I ask myself whether I have made enough new artwork and whether it will all look great and interesting together. A year flies by, and especially if you produce detailed work on big sizes and do lot of commissions besides that, it is difficult to achieve a reasonable amount of art to exhibit. I could only finish my latest artwork just in time because of the lack of time in the past year and some procrastination. You will see that
everything still will eventually work out in the end. In this article, I will take you through the process of my last exhibition.
An exhibition always requires more work in preparation than you think. Besides your art and the exhibition location, you also have to think about; arranging the frames, order prints and business cards, making your portfolio ready and look after price tags and food and drinks. I personally exhibit a lot at new locations where I have never been before. As a result of that, it is hard to make a good estimate of the space ahead of time and, if necessary, the items and supplies that
need to be borrowed, such as suspension mechanisms, walls and other objects.
When exhibiting with other artists, keep in mind that the exhibition space also has to be fairly distributed. This is why I recommend to meet at least one week in advance with the other exhibitors on location. Once you are all together, it is important to take the style of art per artist into consideration; ceramists, for example, need more tables and space on the ground, while painters will fill up more space on the wall. Make clear agreements in advance so that everyone is satisfied with the distribution.
In advance, I often do not know how I want it all to look together. Most artists, including myself, naturally want to exhibit their most recent work anyway. You mostly want to show what you have done in the past year and how you have developed as an artist. Personally, it works best for me to build my exhibition around my newest artworks. To sort out everything and to make it look on whole, I look at the colors, style, materials used, the format and the frames that I own. For example, as my two most recent works were both the same size and semi-realistic color portraits so they could both be placed in the same kind of frames. Because I was allowed to use another wall (where about four large works could be placed), I went looking for more matching work. In the end, I ended up with four large multimedia portraits in total that I placed in the same frames because I knew that these works would come together. When the artworks that I really wanted to be part of my exhibition were in place, I took some of my older and smaller work and arranged them around the work that was already there.
Every year I also take a series of some older realistic portraits on A4 with me. I think it is good to show that, in addition to semi realistic multimedia portraits, I am still able to create realistic graphite portraits. A disadvantage of A4 artworks is that they always look silly when you hang them on a large wall. This is why it is extra fun to make series with small portraits. You can do this, for example, by just hanging up smaller works on a wall, but also by using other objects (which may even be present on location). Last time, I even used a tree trunk on wheels for my little drawings. Here I put down some smaller autumn drawings, which together gave a very nice and playful effect. So make use of the stuff that you own of do have on location. There are more possibilities than you think.
The final preparations are certainly not unimportant. After everything is in place, I think about what else I want to show. Often there is still room to put some prints down to sell or some space on the wall to store smaller work. Also do not underestimate the space of tables which are perfect to display your portfolio, a biography or for example pulished newspaper articles. Not all visitors like to step right at you but prefer to walk around and assess what they find interesting. As a finishing touch, you put your business cards down, hang up the price tags and criticize everything as a whole. At my last exhibition I also noticed that it is very cool to put down a guestbook. Secretly, the reactions in it are more real and closer to you than the comments you
recieve via social media.
During the exhibition itself, I am often working on drawings. People like to see how a work is made and what materials I use. I let the visitors go their way and when I notice that there is interest I walk around. It is important to find a balance between being present and giving visitors their space. Very often nice conversations can start from just a ‘hello’ or a smile. It is interesting to know what people like about your work and whether they do something creative themselves. Not only will you get a lot of positive energy from these conversations, it will bring a lot of enthusiasm and motivation to continue creating art and you might even hit upon new ideas for future work!
Something I certainly learned after having exhibited a couple of times is: do not get disappointed quickly because not everything goes the way you envisioned it. Do not expect too much. Not everyone will like your work and that makes sense. You will always have to take things like; the location, any rent, your fellow exhibitors, the hanging mechanisms, fire safety, the frames, the number of visitors and even the weather into consideration. Make sure that every single artwork stands out and therefore do not make your exhibition look too busy. I prefer to exhibit less so that this work comes across extra strong rather than to clutter all the walls so that I can show as much as possible. There are always options for showing more work without going overboard, such as to put works down as a portfolio. This way, you can show more than you think. If you do not expect too much, are open for possibilities and do your preparations in advance, you will see that you can really enjoy what is so cool about exhibiting: sharing your work with the world.