A while back, I had an interesting request from a Twitter follower. With only two weeks left before her big art gallery show, a photographer named “Amy”asked me for some advice on how she could prepare for her upcoming art gallery night.

At that time, Amy was not represented by a gallery or a co-op gallery, so she had to do a lot of the work herself.  I decided to write this post in hopes of helping other newbie artists or creatives with their first gallery show.

Therefore, this article is written for the self-represented artist. In other words, an artist who is not  represented by an art gallery. I will address how to prepare when represented by an art gallery in a future post.

Amy was clever enough to find a place to showcase her new body of work at the Point Break Café. She had the art and the place to exhibit, but now what?

These were Amy’s questions:

Question: How do I promote my show?

  • Come up with a ‘catchy’ name for your show. For example, my last gallery show was named, “Inspired by Nature” or “Illusionary Realism” was another past show.
  • Don’t forget your name!
  • Know your date, time & location address of your event
  • Call your local newspaper and ask for them to do a press release – preferably in the ‘art’ section. Call 2 weeks in advance.
    • Most papers are online nowadays – make sure they post you on their website as well
    • Ask the paper to post you in their ‘classified ad’ section (many newspapers will do this for free if you keep the ad to a minimum of letters)
    • You can pay to take an ad in the ‘art’ or ‘community events’ section of your local newspaper and their website.
  • Call your local radio station 2 weeks in advance with the same information
  • Put this information on your own website
  • Link to other websites
  • Print postcards with your show information on one side & an image on the other
  • Save money and print color copied fliers with the show info Use email for your show announcement
  • You can even take out expensive ads in major art magazines.
    • This is very costly – if you do this, contact the magazine at least 2 months in advance
    • Post ‘tweets’ on your Twitter page a few times a day where you can brand yourself as an artist.

Question: How many pieces should I have for my show?

  • Even though if you are representing yourself right now, it is helpful to know that the standard show requirements can vary from gallery to gallery.
  • But, the average show consists of 8 – 10 of your very best works. I usually paint between 12- 15 works. I like to ‘make hay while the sun shines’ J .
  • Do not overwhelm your collectors with too many choices.
  • These works should be professionally framed and ready to hang.
  • Have tags with your name, size, medium, & price clearly printed and displayed with your work

Question: Do you have any suggestions for the ‘night of’ my show?

  • It might be helpful to read my previous post on how to how to find the right gallery.
  • Look your best!
    • People will be admiring your work and will be impressed by you, so make sure you are courteous and friendly to all with the right attitude.
  • Do not be overly aggressive
    • Not all customers buy on art gallery opening night
    • Many times they go home and think about it and come back later
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover – many of my best collectors don’t look like they can afford art!
  • You might have a friend or an employee of the ‘gallery night’ venue help ‘sell’ you art so you don’t have to.
  • Offer to put a ‘hold’ or a first right of refusal (usually a ‘green’ dot)
    • Use a ‘red’ dot for sold
    • Place these dots on your price tag
  • Have a guest book displayed requesting names, numbers and email contacts for future reference
  • Smile and have fun
  • Here are a few other thoughts:
    • It is a good idea to keep the work in your show as cohesive as possible. For example, a series of work looks great when hung together. This will look more professional and show that you have a recognizable style.
    • You can anchor your show with 2 – 3 major pieces (larger works) and round out the show with some smaller pieces.
    • It is a good idea to offer a range of sizes and prices
    • Or…you can do a whole miniature show filled with little gems!
  • Price your artwork to sell.
    • Visit galleries and websites to get an idea of what similar works to yours are selling for and be competitive.
    • Take in consideration the current quality, technique and experience of you and your art.
    • Most importantly……..be willing to let your artwork go to a new home! Don’t let your art become too precious or you will have a difficult time selling it.
    • If you are attached to a really special piece, go ahead and hang that ONE work with the show and mark it as sold with a red dot! This gets the public’s attention. But don’t over-abuse this tactic…it can frowned upon.

I have discovered, it is always a good idea to keep a piece of your best art for your own collection. You can refer back to it for years to come for inspiration. You can always decide to sell it!

Keep in mind, if you are fortunate enough to be represented by an art gallery, the gallery will usually do the PR/advertising for you. This doesn’t mean that they will pay 100% for the marketing costs though. You will need to negotiate that deal before the exhibition. Most reputable art galleries will do a lot of the work for you including hanging and sales.

I hope this helps you all prepare for a fabulous art opening. After such a big event, you might want to read what to do if you start feeling blue from the post-exhibition blues!

How to Hang Your Artwork Like a Pro
Feeling Blue in the Studio?
Overwhelmed in the Studio? Check Your Work Habits!
Rework an Old Painting & Make it Sell!
10 Helpful Ways to Overcome Spring Fever in the Art Studio
Focus and Plan to Paint! 
The Color ‘Blue’: Use the Hidden Meaning for Art & Design
Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Art

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