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10 Steps To Guarantee A Successful First Exhibition - (Part 2/4)

Updated: Aug 23, 2019

Hello and welcome to Part 2 of 4, of Shifteye Studios 10 Step Guide to putting on a Successful First Exhibition. You can check out Part 1 HERE, where we looked at "Establishing Your Content" & "How Long Should You Exhibit For?".

This week in Part 2, we shall be looking at "Locating A Venue" and then once you've selected a venue, working out the "Exhibition Floor Plan & Walkthrough"; the Feng Shui, if you prefer.

3) Locate A Venue

Finding the ideal venue for you and your work is like trying finding the right partner. They need to be supportive, easy to talk to & reasonable.

Do some research and make a list of all the potential places. Visit as many venues as you possibly can, what may not work for your first exhibition could work out for another or could be a recommendation to a friend.

As a first time exhibitor, restaurants, creative workplaces and/or co-working spaces can be great places to showcase your work. Once you have located several ideal venues, get in touch with the owners or venue managers and book an appointment; it may help if you carry a sample portfolio of your work to the meet.

You may find with some venues that whilst their space may be the right one for you, your work may not necessarily be a good fit for their space.

For example, Nude Photography compared to conceptual paintings, simply won’t work well in a bank lounge or a family restaurant. However, such work would present well in an art gallery or creative spaces frequented by adults.

Here are a few things to consider:

Size Of Location:

A large open venue might be everyone’s ideal space to exhibit, however, take into consideration the amount of work you have as well as the size of your work. A handful of small-sized final pieces would make an exhibit in a large open space look incomplete, whilst numerous large-sized final pieces would make a small venue look overcrowded and a bit intimidating to guests.


Is the venue easy enough to get to? Will you have to draw a complex map to aid your guests getting to where you are exhibiting? As a first time exhibitor, you should try and make it as easy as possible for people to find your exhibition.

Friends and family will go above and beyond to find you in some hidden corner of a shopping mall on the lower basement floor. Everyone else may be less inclined to look for your exhibition, especially if it means going through some manner of unplanned adventure.


Create a rough budget and try to stick to it, but don’t be too stiff with costs. If the venue you have chosen charge to exhibit, no price is ever set in stone. Have a word with the owners and try to negotiate a fairer price.

Talk to all your ideal venues and get their costs, and most importantly learn what else, other than the venue space, they can provide you for their rate. For example, can they provide marketing, printing, easels, artwork promo, art-boards e.t.c? Perhaps they could be willing to organise and manage the exhibition launch for you.

Opening Hours:

Ideally, you want a venue that opens all day up to the evening. From our experience here at The Shifteye Studios, aside from pre-arranged school trips and university students... no one in Nairobi really visits an exhibition in the morning during the week. You may get a few walk-ins between 12 pm and 4 pm in the week, but what we have found is most people prefer to stop by after work between 5 pm - 9 pm. Weekends are of course prime for getting people to stop by your exhibition. Ideally, try and find a venue that opens All Day on both Saturday & Sunday or even on just one day during the weekend.

Security & Safety:

You’ve worked hard to finally get here and exhibit your work. The last thing you need is some low-life stealing your precious hard work. Look for a venue with roaming security guards, CCTV coverage and competent staff that understand the value of your work. In addition, it may be worth finding out about their fire protocols.

Do they have a fire protocols & alarms and if they do, what happens? If there is a sprinkler system, how will that affect your work if it is set off?

Ask the venue if they have insurance that covers your work. If they do not, as you will find most venues may not consider sourcing for insurance for your work.


The reputation and/or notoriety of a venue will always influence the number of people that come to check out your exhibition. Check out reviews on Facebook & Google, but most importantly ask around. Check out previous exhibitors and get in touch to find out what their experience was like.

Social Media Presence:

Check out how active the venue is on social media, but more importantly, have a look at their engagement with people. Engagement essentially means whether people organically respond to their posts.

Just because a venue has 50,000 likes on Facebook doesn't mean those likes are from genuine people. You will more than likely find that a venue that has 1,000 - 5,000 organically grown followers/ likes on their Facebook Page will have loads more people responding and engaging with their posts than a venue with 100,000 likes/ followers.

Better engagement works a lot more in your favour.

4) Floor plan and Walkthrough

Once you have booked the venue for your exhibition, establish a floor plan. The floor plan is the set up for how your pieces will be displayed throughout the venue. The floor plan should be tailored to both your preferences and the versatility of the venue.

When creating a floor plan, consider the order in which you want your pieces to be viewed, the size of your pieces, lighting within the venue and how best you can make use of the space within the venue. All these things combined should help bring out your work in the best possible way. You can also be creative with the sizes of your pieces, lighting and use of space if it helps reinforce the theme of your exhibition.

When you have established a floor plan, do a walkthrough to confirm that the floor plan meets your desired goals. If possible, have someone else do the walkthrough with you for an objective opinion. This can help determine if the flow of the space works well or not, and if guests will actually follow the path you have laid out for them.


That's it for Part 2. Please check back with us next week for Part 3 of 4, where we look at:

5) Timelines & Budgets

6) Marketing

7) Contracts

8) Artists Statements + Press Kit

If there's anything you think we may have missed, or any additional advice; please do let us know in the comments section below or drop us an email.

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