I learned a lot while setting up my first Art Show at the OSO Arts Centre in Barnes. Much of this is thanks to Lisa Ross and The Team who I cannot thank enough for their encouragement and assistance from start to finish.
Plan ahead. When should everything be framed and packed? When will you paint new material? When will you produce and distribute invitations?
Ideally block out your diary, and Be There in the Gallery every day it’s going to be open with your work. Check with the management – do they open 5, or 6, or 7 days a week?
First step was to make my promotional flyer for physical advertising. The size should be: X” x Y” to fit in the display unit in the cafe. I designed it with Google Slides (Free) and got 240 printed at SnappySnaps for £50. I wish I’d specified thicker paper. These have to distributed all the time for a month before the event.
Look in the display unit to get design ideas. Here’s my design. Note that the Title of the Show creates a “Theme” that will influence all the content and text for everything you do.
Of course I edited a super-brief invitation that I then appended to a continuous barrage of social media broadcasts over a four month period. As I have a Facebook ‘Page’ that included ‘boosted’ (I.e. paid) posts that people actually saw. Did you know that your posts are seen on average by approx 4% of your contacts?
4.Email. And Phone.
This is tedious but I write to everybody I could think of and called many personally. Time consuming but actually isn’t it lovely to chat with all your friends?!
Next I measured each stretch of hanging space; I then drew a plan of what was hanging where, including both existing and planned works. A contingency plan included only existing works to save me from any pressure that might spoil the planned works!
I asked the Gallery how they usually hang pictures and made sure that between us we had enough hooks for everything. I needed string and enough brass hooks for my 35 (!) frames.
I wrote a one page document that describes all my paintings. This saves me from repeating myself for every visitor; and allows them to skip the ones they’re not interested in, without worrying about offending the painter!
8.Business Cards & Postcards
You must leave these on hand so people can take one if you’ve gone to lunch. Also, consider making postcards of your work. Then people can take months, if they want, to make the difficult decision to acquire your work and invite it into their home on a quotidian basis!
Invite a friend to help you hang everything in the day. You’ll be glad to have someone to pass the scissors, pass the chair, pass the artwork, pass the picture hooks, and maybe put the kettle on,…
I wrote the title and pricing options on a strip of masking tape and stuck it to the wall under each painting. That worked well and saves effort confusion caused by trying to look things up in a catalogue or hanging map.
I built my own cloud database! (Using Podio) But an exercise book would do the job. It’s important to have headings ready for each of the artworks so that you can make note if someone wants to reserve it purchase, and of course you’ll want to keep track of who’s paid, what’s delivered, and how much commission you owe!
The gallery management have probably run more exhibitions than you have (!) so I’d definitely seek out and listen to their advice, and take it 🙂
In fact, nearly all of this post is advice I’ve been helpfully given, with some extra tips that I got from other artists.
Finally, here’s a nice picture of the OSO Arts Centre Café Gallery occupied by the manager Lisa, Marilyn, and 35 of my own frames.