18 tips for a successful art show
hello dear friends. last friday was my very first solo art show. it was such a lovely evening. there was sooooo much work that went into this show. hours of painting, stitching, preparing and promoting. we had a huge turn-out and i made a ton of connections. i sold a few things, but more importantly , i got my art in front of lots of different people.
there are a few things that i did right and a few that i completely missed. so i thought it would be a great opportunity to give you all a few tips to putting together a successful art show.
tip # 1 positive state of mind. ultimately you want to sell your artwork, right? but if selling is the only goal of your show, you will be setting yourself up for disappointment. what if none of your pieces sell? you are headed for a huge crash. check your expectations for the show. make your goal meeting tons of people and getting your name out there. because let’s face it, sometimes you need to get your work in front of someone several times before they are ever ready to purchase. and you never know when a person might come back later to purchase that one painting that has been haunting them. or they might just tell all of their friends about your work which could result in sales for you.
tip # 2 promote your show by bringing a few pieces into the store or gallery a month or two before the show. i hung twelve mini paintings in the store a whole month before the show. and guess what? i sold three originals before the show had ever even begun. and there were a ton of people who came back on opening night just to see the rest of my work. that is success.
tip # 3 have cards printed up with your bio and contact information to hand out. i made up my cards and had them printed as photographs. they looked super professional and i had something tangible to give to people on the night of show. this gives them the opportunity to follow your presence online, check out your store and what not.
tip # 4 promote your other services. i teach altered book classes. so i brought examples of my altered books and flyers for my class. i met tons of people who would love to take my classes. so people who maybe don’t want to buy a painting, might want to learn to paint themselves.
tip # 5 an email list is essential. i am just kicking myself right now because this is one of those things that just slipped through the cracks. you need to have a place for people to sign up to get on your email list. this way you can follow up with all of those people who were impressed with your show and your work. i was planning to do this but just completely forgot.
tip # 6 make sure that you have a wide range of prices. my prices started at $6 (cards) and went all the way up to $550. this way everyone can afford something. when you sell a lot of those lower priced items, it can really add up quickly.
tip # 7 hire a photographer. or in my case, ask your amazing sister to take pictures for you. you won’t want to be worried about taking pictures the night of the show, but you will be so thankful to have them afterwards. make a list of pictures that you want for your photographer. i didn’t do this and i wish i had. i really wanted to get pictures of the cupcakes and one with laura the owner of the store. but i didn’t get them because i didn’t tell my sister what i wanted.
tip # 8 hang your paintings a few days before the show. i am so glad that we did this. i can’t imagine how hectic it would have been if we hung the pictures right before the show. you don’t want to be rushing around right before the show. this gives you plenty of time to remember any last minute tweaking. and make sure to have all of your little cards printed up for the day that you are going to hang your pictures. this way you can put up the cards with your paintings at the same time.
tip # 9 edit. you don’t want to hang every piece you have ever painted. you want to choose paintings that are cohesive and flow together. sometimes less is more.
tip # 10 get everything done a day or two before the show. this way, the day of the show you can just focus on relaxing. it really helps your attitude.
tip # 11 inventory. make a list of all the pieces in your show beforehand. make sure to include prices on this list. this way, there will be no confusion about which pieces have sold and which ones haven’t. make sure you and the gallery owner both have a copy.
tip # 12 plan to eat ahead of time. you don’t want to be starving and have no energy to greet your guests. i didn’t do the best on this one, but i did find a restaurant up the street that i could grab a quick bite before the show.
tip # 13 only work with people that you love. i think this is soooo key to having a fluidly running show. laura and i connected right away and i knew intuitively that we would be a good fit for each other. my work was perfect for her store. if you don’t feel right about something, then it won’t be a good partnership. this includes the cut that the store or gallery owner takes. if you don’t love it, don’t do it. i can’t imagine how stressful it would have been for me if i didn’t have an awesome connection with the store owner.
tip # 14 food and beverages. usually the gallery or store will provide these things, but they are so helpful to having a successful show. work this out with the gallery or store owner ahead of time.
tip # 15 promotion, promotion, promotion. i think you have to start at least a month ahead of time promoting your show. hand out flyers. send out emails. tell all of your friends and family. tell everyone on facebook. carry fliers in your purse so you can hand them out in line at the grocery store. just get the word out however possible.
tip # 16 ongoing show. it’s always nice to have an extended show. for example, my artwork will be hanging in the store for an entire month after opening night. i think this is key to getting more sales. who knows when you might sell more artwork. you might have to ask to keep your artwork up.
tip # 17 end the show with a wholesale order. if your show is in a actual store, you might think about asking the owner if they want to place a wholesale order. this doesn’t really work with galleries because most galleries only work on consignment. but if your work resounds with customers then the store owner might just be up for carrying your work on a longterm basis.
tip # 18 have fun. be yourself. talk yourself up. in the end, people are more likely to buy artwork from an artist they like. so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and enjoy yourself.
one final note: i don’t consider having an art show the end all of being an artist. they are a lot of work!!! and many times you don’t see very much fruit from all of the work that goes into the show. i think artists today must shift from the “gallery” mindset as the only way to make a living as an artist. because art shows are not my sole source of income as an artist, i am not crushed if not a lot of pieces sell. i sold three pieces before the show, one on opening night and tons of cards.
what i do love about art shows is the fact that it forces you as an artist to create a ton of new pieces. it helps you step out of your box and really evaluate your style. to me that is more successful than selling a ton of paintings.