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10 Steps To Guarantee A Successful First Exhibition - (Part 1/4)

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

So you’ve finally decided it’s time; time to finally put your money where your mouth is and show the world exactly what you are made of as a creative. It’s time to finally put on that exhibition and let the peacock fly. Well, we salute you! This decision usually does not begin with a wave of excitement like when you had your first kiss. Hairs on the back of your neck, spike goosebumps dot their way all over your body and your heart flutters with untameable anxiety. Then it all comes crashing down with the dreaded realisation of, how the hell am I going to do this?

Not to fear, that’s why we are here. We are going to give you a step by step guide to putting on the most Fantastic Exhibition you have never had. Mind you, even if you are a veteran and have put on a few exhibitions in the past, there may be a few things you might learn.

Over the next Four Blog Posts, we are going to go over the following:

1) Establish Your Content

2) How Long Should You Exhibit For?

3) Locate A Venue

4) Floor Plan & Walkthrough

5) Timelines & Budgets

6) Marketing

7) Contracts

8) Artists Statements + Press Kit

9) To Sell Or Not To Sell

10) Opening Night

So, without further ado, here is our Shifteye Studios 10 Steps to putting on a successful first exhibition:

1) Establish Your Content

This sounds straightforward right? After all, you know the medium you use, therefore it’s a no-brainer, you’ll just exhibit that. Whilst there is a beauty to keeping things simple and direct, adding different kinds of media could make your exhibition more immersive and much more visually appealing.

Take time to carefully sift through your work and think about what to exhibit

Look, we’re not saying that your work isn’t amazing enough to attract people to your exhibition. All we are saying is that making your exhibition a more immersive experience will definitely keep tongues wagging long after patrons have walked out of the exhibition. Trust us. You cannot put a value on the immense power of word of mouth marketing; we’ll talk a bit more about that later.

Here are some ideas to try out to make your exhibition more immersive:

  • If you are a painter, you could film the process of you creating your masterpieces and show. It could be a behind the scenes look at you creating your work in your studio, with a voice-over, music or even just as a silent video. Alternatively, the video could be an art piece in itself, with interesting visuals that complement the painting in the exhibition. This can be shown during the exhibition as a projection or in a separate room with a private viewing.

  • As a photographer, depending on your subject matter, you could consider having sound effects in the background. For example, if you love to shoot landscape photography, you could have the sound of high winds bellowing and trees rustling in the background.

2) How Long Should You Exhibit For?

How long is a piece of string? Exhibitions can run for any length of time, from a few hours to even a few months

In all honesty, there is no best or set length of time that your exhibition should ideally be up for. It’s really up to you as the artist to work this out. Your exhibition could last just one or two days as a pop-up exhibition or it could even last from one week to an entire month. Heck, some exhibitions are seasonal and can last up to 6 months.

Pop-Up Events/ Exhibitions are all the rage right now in Nairobi. The amount of time that a Pop-Up Event or Exhibition is on, which is usually a day or two, gives people a sense of urgency and a want to catch the new exciting thing before it goes away for good. However, you can’t guarantee enough people will actually get a chance to actually see your work. That said, Pop-Ups they are the most cost-effective way of putting on exhibitions.

A month-long exhibition will definitely guarantee that a much larger audience gets to see your work. We have found that a month-long exhibition tends to work more in the favour of either established artists, creative collectives exhibiting works of a number of people or for aggregative exhibitions, like the World Press Photo Exhibition (which we proudly hosted in 2015). One benefit to exhibiting with a group of other creatives is being able to split the cost. In addition, it tends to make life a little easier when you have a group of people to work through logistics and general organisation.

For us at Shifteye Studios, we have found the perfect balance that works for our photographers and artist friends, for hosting an exhibition, is about one week.

Let the content of your work guide you, but more often than not, your budget, cost and availability of your exhibition venue, will determine the duration of your exhibition. Lastly, different exhibition durations work better in different locations. Have a chat with the venues and find out what length of exhibitions work best in their location. Also have a chat with other artists and find out what has worked for them.


That's it for Part 1. Please check back with us next week for Part 2 of 4, where we look at Locating A Venue as well as Exhibition Floor Plan & Walkthrough.

Link to Part 1: 1) Establish Your Content, 2) How Long Should You Exhibit For?

Link to Part 2: 3) Locate A Venue, 4) Floor Plan & Walkthrough

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