I'll let you in on a little secret. I've not yet had a solo art exhibition. Not yet anyway. It's an idea that has always excited me. I am still in two minds about having an exhibition in a fancy pants art gallery - I am not sure if I want a big commission to go to a gallery (I know they do a lot of work though for each exhibition and that the sales process takes great tact and energy too). I am not sure if I want to market my art that way and sell my art for that price either. But watch this space - who knows what will eventuate!
I have been in conversation recently though with a small gallery in the inner west of Sydney about putting on my very first self-run solo art exhibition in their space. It's a super cute showroom with charm, in a busy location and I know it gets jam-packed on opening nights. My original plan was to go ahead and commit to a November show but now with COVID, making that decision doesn't feel so easy. If we're only allowed 1 person per 4 square metres and the gallery space is cosy (part of the charm!), that's very limiting... and discouraging enough for me to say no - for now, anyway. Sad news, I know! I was so ready for the exhibition adventure. And, yes, I feel awful about not supporting the gallery.
Thinking of exhibitions in the future, however, I wanted to share with you some of my pros and cons for having a solo art exhibition (based on all my research, reading and pondering) so that it can help you with your own journey as an artist.
The 5 Top Pros
- Builds excitement and positive energy around your profile and your art
- Motivates and challenges you to create a series of works that are cohesive and based on a theme
- Gives you the opportunity to develop new skill sets (think advertising, graphic design)
- Allows you to test the market in real life - hear customer feedback first-hand, view what customers are physically drawn to
- Great networking opportunity, a means to build community and to promote the arts industry
- You get to keep all the profits
- You get to call the shots (decide on opening days and times, if there will be an artist talk, what champagne you'll provide - VERY important)
The Few Cons
- Costs need to be controlled (hiring a space, food/drinks on opening night, framing, printed materials, advertising, any extra labour, transport of artworks)
- Many decisions will need to be made (dates, times, venue, pricing, marketing)
- Physical set up and pack up
- COVID considerations (if you're reading this during the pandemic)
And one of the best cons that could actually be seen as a pro, is that putting on a solo art exhibition requires both bravery and courage! You need these things as an artist and to be forced to find them within you is a good thing, I promise you.
A Word About the Cons
Really the cons I've mentioned could well be a pro to you. Perhaps you love the challenge of keeping within a budget. Perhaps you like decision-making. Perhaps you enjoy physical work or have some handy people in your life who could assist. Perhaps you love germs and feel that you're invincible and that your community doesn't rely on your responsible behaviour (joking - COVID is serious). Basically what I'm saying is that, COVID aside, the cons are few. And the pros far outweigh them. So, if you've got a bit of a budget handy to cover the costs and you're up for some decision-making (and you can wrap your head around the COVID factor), go for it!
For me personally, at a time like this, with social distancing restrictions and on-again-off-again lockdowns, I'm likely to give exhibitions a miss altogether this year and focus on other things... like entering competitions! Comment below if you would like me to blog about my experiences as I focus on this in the upcoming months.