A reader of ASK Harriete asks: I do not have credentials or know how to "shop around" for a future place to exhibit my artwork. So how can I find exhibition opportunities for finished work?
As mentioned in a previous post, I recommend making the work you want to make, without waiting for an exhibition that forces you to take action. Rather than reacting to a themed exhibition, let the artist inside of you make work that inspires you now. When the work is complete, then find an exhibition that fits your work.
But the big question is...How do Artists and Makers find exhibition opportunities for finished work?
Here are some suggestions:
Write about work while it is in progress on your blog, Flickr, Facebook, or Crafthaus including interesting facts, tips, or "in the studio" shots that may interest your audience. This is especially important to generate visibility and interest if the work takes a long time.
When the work is completed you need fabulous photos! If the work is too big to photograph before installation, use some close-up images.
Write an artist statement about the finished work. Keep improving and updating this information.
Create custom-made shipping box(es) for storage and shipping.
Figure out how much it will cost to ship. An exhibition sponsor may ask:
- How many boxes? How heavy? Dimensions?
- Know the insurance value. (Insurance is usually half the retail price.)
Prepare instructions for assembly, installation, display, and packing, as necessary. This includes an installation diagram and how much time it takes to set up.
Send photos and information to exhibition spaces and curators that you have worked with in the past. This is where your history of participating in group shows, juried shows, and invitational exhibitions may be helpful.
- A personal letter or email is essential. Group emails are worthless. Personal contact is key.
- You should have a professional (or close to perfect) working relationship with previous exhibition sponsors. Flaky behavior will get you nowhere.
- Professional behavior in every regard, and great working relationships, are key to these inquiries.
- Write to every place that has ever exhibited your work.
Leverage a network of networks. Let your network of contacts extend into their networks to reach exhibitions that you would not hear of otherwise.
Be proactive and patient. A perfect exhibition opportunity is not likely to show up immediately, so be patient. But you must actively get your photos and statement out to let it spread and find opportunities. If you don't inform people, no one will "find" you.
And, of course, keep your eyes out for published invitations for exhibitions. Broadly interpret any stated theme to include your finished work. Submit your photo and modified statement to all shows that could possibly be interpreted to include your work. You never know who might agree with your interpretation of the theme.
The most challenging option is to submit your images, and exhibition proposal to galleries, museums, or non-profit exhibition spaces that you have not worked with in the past. This requires research to figure out if your work is appropriate for each venue. Look on their website, study past exhibits, and internet search results for your preliminary investigation.
Consuming Conversations - A series of teacups about our consumer society. A concealed rod holds each stack of cups together in a precarious position. A position mirrored in our current economy of overspending and consuming without regard to realistic finances.
This post was updated on February 9, 2022.