[Editor's Note: Guest writer April A. Taylor owns a photography business and has had her work shown in magazines, movies, art galleries and books. Be sure to visit her site and view more of her work.]
Preparing for an exhibition can be a stressful experience, even for those whose artwork is displayed in galleries on a regular basis. There are many factors to consider, such as whether to have your photos printed by a professional lab or to handle the printing yourself, but if you decide to print at home, then you need to make sure that you have the highest quality printer, ink and acid free archival quality paper your budget will allow.
In order to make sure that you’re ready for your next show, whether it’s your first exhibition or your hundredth, here is a list of everything that you need to address before the opening of your show.
1.) Print quality is very important; while it’s tempting to save money by using standard paper and ink that will make it harder to justify the price of your artwork. Art collectors are looking for archival quality paper, and you should provide it to them with pride. Those who are new to purchasing art may not be aware of the importance of using acid free archival quality paper, so you should be sure to educate them about the fact that cheap inks and regular paper will begin to fade within a couple of years, leaving them with a piece that is no longer suitable for display.
2.) Nothing kills a great image more than being presented in a cheap looking frame, so if the exhibit allows you to display framed work, then you should consider your audience when you pick the style of your frame. Keep in mind, however, that high quality black metal frames will go with just about any decor. Also, remember that most people prefer plexiglass due to its weight and cost, but make sure that it has UV protection. It is important to also consider whether or not to use a matte; matting your photo will improve its overall visual impact in most instances, but make sure that you use a matte that is appropriately sized and that is also a complementary color. Many exhibits only accept work that is on a matte board, as it allows the purchaser to select their own frame; if this is the case, it becomes even more important to utilize the right matte.
3.) Discuss any sizing and hanging requirements with the curator of the gallery in advance; although most galleries can accommodate several different sizes of artwork, you will want to make sure that your pieces will not be pulled from the show for not following the gallery’s specific guidelines. It is also important to have an intimate working knowledge of the layout and color scheme of the gallery, so that you can make sure that the presentation of your work is as aesthetically pleasing as possible.
4.) It is extremely important to make sure that you do not miss any of the gallery’s deadlines. Most curators point to artists missing deadlines as the toughest part of pulling together an exhibit, and those who don’t meet deadlines are not likely to be invited to participate in future showings.
5.) Being a successful artist requires a lot of self-promotion; don’t rely on the gallery to get the word out about your show. Whether it’s a solo exhibit or you’ll only have one piece up among several , it is important for you as a participating artist to help spread the word. It is critical to utilize a promotional piece that is professionally designed and showcases some of your best pieces; if the gallery isn’t going to provide this type of a promotional piece, then you should create one and distribute it. Post about the show on all of your social networking profiles, and create an event page for the show on Facebook. Make sure that your family and friends are invited, as a larger crowd creates a buzz that will encourage higher viewership and consequently increase your chance of making sales.
6.) Be prepared to talk about each of your pieces; if they have a specific story or meaning behind them, then you should be ready to share that information with prospective buyers. Many people who invest in art prefer to have the opportunity to meet the artist, so it is imperative that you go to the gallery opening and that you make yourself accessible to anyone who has a question. If the gallery holds a “Meet the Artist” night, make sure that you attend, and take a friend with you, if possible. You’ll be able to discuss your work with your friend and answer predetermined questions that will highlight some of the more interesting aspects of your work. If the gallery allows it and isn’t already providing it, you should also bring refreshments with you, such as wine, to have available for those who are perusing the exhibit.
7.) Don’t look at the exhibition as your only opportunity to make a sale. Most people need time to think about the art that they’re going to bring into their homes as good art is a sizeable investment. Come prepared with professional looking business cards and other promotional materials, so that you don’t miss out on a future sale. It is vital to have a professionally designed website; ensure that your URL is listed on all of your promotional materials. You should also utilize your own host for your email account, if possible, but if you MUST use a free email host, be sure to avoid AOL and Hotmail.
If you are ready to show and need materials I suggest Adorama, I personally use them to source my materials as I find that they carry high quality items at a reasonable cost. To save even more money you can make use of on of the many available coupons on the Internet.
Many artists also have pre-opening routines, such as eating their favorite meal or spending a day checking out the city that the gallery is located in. If you have exhibited before, what is your favorite thing to do to mentally prepare yourself on the day of the show?
April A. Taylor has had work exhibited in Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, the short horror film CathARTic, Fangoria.com and DAMNED IV: An Exhibition of Enligtened Darkness.