Exhibitor Advice

Planning a Show:

Do not plan a show unless you already have your work completed. 

Be flexible with booking if you need a show sooner than later. Most galleries book exhibits 6 to 24 months in advance.

If you desire a specific month, call the gallery ASAP.

Decide what you want the exhibit to be about before you apply to the gallery. For example, pick a theme and develop a coherent statement that summarizes the essence of the exhibit. This will help you self edit and solicit the neccessary services/people to help the exhibit succeed.

If this is a group exhibit, create a prospectus that outlines what is expected of each participant and/or group member.

Create a rough budget. No matter where you are having an exhibit, some amount of money is going to leave your pocket. Figure out how much money you need to finish and hang your show. Then, decide how much money is left for reception and marketing costs (if those are not provided by the gallery).

Framing costs can add up quickly. If you are a printmaker, photographer, or painter, do your homework before you settle on artwork sizes. Non standard frame sizes may look interesting, but they can also break the bank. Check out the Framing Do’s and Don’ts list for more details.

Ask for the gallery commission rates, exhibition fees, terms, and limitations. This way everyone is on the same page and there are no surprises.

Preparing for a Show:

Communicate with the curator often and well in advance. Curators want to help you (or at least they should). If you have special needs like projection screens, electricity in certain places, odd lighting, etc., let the curator know in the early planning stages.

If you need to get images printed, do so several weeks before the show and make sure you have what it takes to hang the images properly on the wall.

NEVER deliver wall mounted artwork that lacks hanging mechanisms. This is a curatorial time leech that could easily cost you an opening as scheduled.

Find out how the gallery mounts artwork and what the wall surface is composed of. Large and well funded galleries tend to mount art into fresh drywall with nails, drywall screws, and elaborate custom built mounting mechanisms. The rest of us use either finishing nails or have a hanging rail system with reusable parts. Also, some galleries have painted drywall, others have plaster, cement, brick, carpet on cork, painted fabric on cellulose fiber board, etc. Each one of these surface types has unique hanging needs that the curator can help you with mounting. Bulldog clips, T-Pins, and straight pins are not suitable for plaster walls or any extremely hard surface.

If the curator tells you to avoid certain printing services and framing centers, heed their warnings.

Do not show up at the gallery unannounced to deliver or hang your work. This may seem like a no brainer, but it happens more often than you think. If you show up at the wrong time, no one will be around to help and you will quickly aggravate both staff and curator.

Do not deliver your work or try to pick it up at times when the gallery is not open or not scheduled. This aggravates the staff, is dangerous for the safety of your work, could cost you money in the form of various fees, and is generally in poor taste.

Communicate directly with the curator via phone, email, and in person. Do not use a liaison to relay messages and directives such as your partner, loved one, roommate, neighbor's cousin, etc. If you cannot get ahold of the curator on the phone, leave a voicemail, send a text message, or send a detailed email.

Make sure the reception details are covered. Some galleries cover the reception; most require you to foot the bill. Ask the curator for tips and what the gallery is capable of providing. Let them know if you need a small table or two large tables and a bar.

If your reception includes a performance (music, dance, DJ, theatre group, or stripper), make sure the performers talk to the curator well in advance and the gallery knows when and what to prepare for the performers.

Deliver a list of your works for exhibit to the curator no later than when you deliver the artwork for hanging. MAC prefers the list to be in digital form such as a DOC, DOCX, RTF, or TXT file. Include artist name, work title, material, dimension, and price (if applicable).