Visiting an exhibition and seeing the artist’s work first-hand can be crucial in “falling for” a work of art and/or deciding to buy it. For that reason, getting the space your work will be seen in right is crucial to the success of the exhibition itself.
First of all, you have to consider the type of venue you wish to book for your exhibition. A gallery is, of course, the classic option (see our article Reaching Out to Galleries) for some tips on that), but is by no means the only one. Other potential exhibition spaces include local libraries, cafés and bars catering to art-loving clientele, banks, hotels and even public spaces such as parks. Your choice depends upon your financial abilities, social connections (Do you know someone who works at a gallery? Do you have a friend who runs a local café, or works at the leisure center?) and of course, the nature of your art. Expressionist-style nudes will probably not go down well at a bank, while an open space might be most suitable for sculptors.
The type of venue also depends on the audience you wish to address. A gallery specifically targets art-lovers, who are likely to be potential buyers or, at the very least, spread the word about your work in the right circles. Shows there may also be more likely to catch the attention of art journalists who cover openings and exhibitions. A public building targets a more varied, but less focused crowd. You have to decide what kind of audience you want.
When looking at a specific space, take a good look at the place and try to determine if it would be safe for your works. Is the park you set your eyes on prone to displays of vandalism or theft? Is a painting hanging in a small restaurant vulnerable to random splashes of gravy? Might works hanging in a corridor get knocked by passersby? Such considerations can save you real damage later!
Another important point is making sure that the appearance of the space complements your art. For example, a very eclectic-looking gallery or café with many eye-catching design elements might not be ideal for an exhibition of black-and-white landscape photographs. The safest bet for almost any sort of art is modern, light-colored “clean” design, which is the least dominant and provides a pleasant background. But if you find a venue with a unique design that compliments or corresponds to your artwork (e.g., paintings in dark romantic style in a space designed with the same general theme), you can really benefit from creating a unique atmosphere and a coherent concept.
The important thing here is to see your artworks not as stand-alone objects, but as existing in a context and environment that affect their looks and appeal. It’s your artwork – you just need to make sure your vision, as you know it already, is enhanced and not diminished by your chosen surroundings.
Whichever space you choose, make sure that it’s easy for potential buyers to follow up on interest in your work: the best way is to place a contact person in the exhibition space, someone who can explain a little about the works, price range, etc. This person should also be able to contact you directly. This is easiest in galleries, where the employees do this anyway. If you’re exhibiting in another type of venue, make sure to find a “local” who will do this for you (for example, the manager or the head waiter at a café), and add a sign directing customers to ask this person for details. If this is not possible, make sure at least to display prominently a telephone number clients can call for further details.
While not every space will be suitable for you, if you get a fair chance to display your work, even if it’s not in the most conventional of spaces, give it real consideration. The results might surprise you. With careful planning, you can have a good shot at exposing new crowds to your work and making a name for yourself. Good luck!