One of the best, and certainly fastest ways of getting an exhibition is doing it yourself and organising your own.
This could be a one off exhibition or something more. Very often, it’s necessary for artists in the early stages of their career to proactive about creating their own exhibition opportunities, and promoting them properly to raise their profile to the point at which they begin to be invited to participate in more ‘formal’ gallery shows. This article highlights the key things to consider if you do decide on a D.I.Y. approach.
The Empty Shops Network’s howtopopup resource provides information and advice for artists, by artists, on setting up a pop-up project or exhibition space.
Some artists find it beneficial to use a visitors’ signing-in book to build up a mailing list, and also to get their email addresses for a far cheaper way of mass mailing. Remember, that under the Data Protection Act, businesses have to let people know what they intend to use contact details for.
It is possible to get funding or sponsorship for private views and other events where catering or entertaining might otherwise be expensive. Local businesses (e.g. wine merchants or suppliers, cafes, restaurants etc) might supply wine or food in return for a mention on your invites, posters and press releases. Be sure to always tell the gallery what you are planning to do in terms of marketing, carefully checking your contract.
One of the most effective ways to let people know about an exhibition can be to send out press releases to local and national press (mainstream and arts specific) with images. Many national and local arts magazines include listings for free and you might get a larger piece written about the work if you approach them professionally and really sell yourself. Email is a cheap and easy way to get images and text about your work to a mass audience, but post still commands a certain respect from people who receive it.
When presenting work in hire galleries the costs of marketing and promoting an exhibition can outweigh the income from sales. Avoid taking loans out to hire expensive venues in the early days of your career. Artists often have to take risks when establishing themselves, but it is often better in the first stages of artists’ careers to work in groups when hiring out spaces as the costs are shared.
In general, hire galleries are well known on the art scene and curators and collectors are wary of them. While many artists organise shows of their own work in a group with other artists, putting on your own solo show in a gallery space that can be hired can suggest that no art world professional is willing to select your work for exhibition and thus tarnish your reputation.