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10 Steps To Guarantee A Successful First Exhibition - (Part 3/4)

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

Hello and welcome back to Part 3 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?". You can also check out the follow up post, Part 2 HERE, where we told you all about "Locating A Venue" and working out the "Exhibition Floor Plan & Walkthrough".

This week in Part 3, we shall be looking at:

5) Timelines & Budgets

6) Marketing

7) Contracts

8) Artists Statement & Press Kits

5) "Timelines & Budgets"

By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail

-Benjamin Franklin-

Putting down timelines and schedules on paper and STICKING TO THEM will almost always set you up for success. But also, leave some room for the unexpected, sometimes things don't always go to plan, problems & delays could literally pop out of nowhere. Aim to get everything ready LONG BEFORE your exhibition to avoid heartache and disappointment.

Give yourself ideally about 3 months from completion of your work to the official date of your exhibition. If there are items to print, find a good printer and get costs for the sizes you require as well as delivery times on prints. Not just for your work but also for marketing and promotional material you may want to print such as posters, standing banners etc.

Here is a rough guide to help you organise your timelines.

1) 3 to 2 Months Prior To The Exhibition:

  • Establish an exhibition venue

  • Set a date (ideally 3 months after completing your final piece)

  • Create promotional artwork

  • Create press pack & Artists Statement

2) 2 to 1 Month Prior To The Exhibition:

  • Create an event page on Facebook using your promotional Artwork

  • Post posters on Social media accounts, i.e.: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

  • Get the Exhibition Venue to share Promotional Artwork on their social media platforms and send notifications to their subscribers via email.

  • If there are any items to be printed (posters, photographs, postcards, business cards, etc.), send to a reliable Printing Supplier and get samples… Once you are happy with all the samples, finalise printing. Make 100% sure you are happy with the samples.

3) 4 Weeks Prior To The Exhibition:

  • Post weekly promos of the exhibition

  • Send out invitations on Facebook Event Page

  • Pay for ads on Social media, using promotional artwork

4) 3 Weeks Prior To The Exhibition:

  • Work with Exhibition Venue to prepare exhibition layout, taking into consideration the flow of the room.

  • Plan your opening night, consider the following:

Lady writing on a blank page in a book
  1. Bar Supplier

  2. Catering

  3. Photographer

  4. Press

  5. Lighting

  6. Music/ Audio Sound Effects

  7. Security

  8. Parking

  9. Additional staff

5) 2 Weeks Prior To The Exhibition:

  • Send out private invitations to VIP’s, hand-delivered goes a long way

  • Continue social media promo campaign

  • Place posters in public areas, make sure to get licenses and permits to do so.

6) 1 Week Prior To The Exhibition:

  • Begin exhibition set up with the venue.

  • Price your artwork

  • Prepare a speech for the opening, don’t worry it doesn't have to a literary masterpiece. Just a few words about your work, your inspiration, the exhibit, vote of thanks and plug any future projects.

7) On The Day Of The Exhibition:

  • Mingle

  • Talk to people

  • Take photos with people

  • Give interviews

  • Post on social media if you can or get a friend to do so for you

  • Own the day, it’s yours

  • Have as much fun as possible

8) After The Opening & During The Exhibition:

  • Continue regular promotional posts online using photos from the opening

  • Ask your friends to help post promo and photographs on their social media accounts

6) Marketing

It’s time to let everyone know that you are about to have the exhibition of the century! Stand back Banksy, this is about to get real. As we mentioned before, we recommend giving yourself about 3 months from the completion of your work to the official exhibition date.

First things first create some artwork of varying sizes, to use for promotion. Try maintaining a similar style throughout the artwork. Consider creating artwork as follow:

  • Facebook Cover

  • Twitter Cover

  • Square Sized for online use

  • A3 sized artwork that can be used both online and as printed posters

In addition to the above, Business Cards are a must; at least 500!

People tend to engage better with video, consider making a short 60-second promo video, in square and/or portrait format to use on social media.

If you have any printed work as part of your exhibition, or any work that is outsourced where you may not be in control of the quality of the outcome, always get samples done where possible. In addition, try to get your samples in good time to allow for corrections to be made.

7) Contracts

We cannot stress just how important contracts are in today's world. It will be more than likely that you will end up needing a bunch of contracts, agreements and/or terms and conditions in the process of putting on your exhibition.

Artists Contract

In the event you decide that going at it alone to put on your first exhibition might be a little bit too overwhelming, you may decide to hire a manager to handle most of the organisation, logistical and administrative duties that would otherwise bog you down.

An Artists Contract is essentially an agreement between an Artist and a said Manager, outlining the terms of their relationship, terms of payment and also the extent of duties. If you plan on selling your work and decide that your it’s your managers job to actively sell your artwork, you might want to include a section about commission, detailing what percentage of sale your manager is to get for each sale he or she makes.

Venue Hire Agreement/ Exhibition Agreement

This will usually be supplied by the venue and will detail the do’s and don’ts of the space as well as highlight payment terms, what the venue will provide for you, security details etc. Always read through carefully and discuss any concerns with the venue before you sign. Some items can be amended before signing to suit both parties.

The Form may also include details on how the venue will assist you in marketing the exhibition, terms for commission in the event you plan to sell your work and copyright & security details. In addition the form may include a detailed list of all artwork you shall have on show including their prices as well as any additional items that you may have discussed beforehand. Makes sure the agreement works for you.

Food & Beverage Contracts

More often than not in Nairobi, unless it’s a restaurant that you will exhibit at, most venues will not actively provide food and beverage services. If you are planning on feeding your guests as well as providing drinks for them, you may need to consider hiring a Food & Beverage Supplier. Ask the venue if they have any preferred vendors, it might just reduce the stress of locating suppliers if they already have people they regularly use for their events.

Depending on whether you hire one company for both food and beverage or two separate vendors to manage food and beverage separately, you will need one or two contracts.Whilst these are contracts to be provided by the vendors, it wouldn't hurt to have your own document prepared.

For the beverage provider, if you alcoholic beverages are to be sold, make sure either the venue or the elected vendor, posses a valid Liquor License, in accordance with the law.

8) Artists Statement & Press Kits

An artist statement is a write up that outlines the ideas, materials and methods behind your exhibition. Have a copy of your artist statement on display at your exhibition. This allows guests to get a better understanding of you and your work, especially in your absence. Your artist statement can include, among other things:

  • Artist bio, where you give a brief description about your career as an artist, where you base your practice, your major accomplishments and what your work investigates

  • Why you have created the work

  • Your overall vision

  • What you expect from your audience and how they will react

  • The methods you have used

  • How your current work relates to your previous work

  • Your sources and inspiration

  • Artists you have been influenced by, or how your work relates to other artists’ work

  • Where you see your work going

  • Consider including your contacts, social media handles and/or website

A “Press Pack” is information that you can readily provide to press, magazines, bloggers and the like to provide detailed information about yourself and your work. A Press Pack should contain the following:

  • A combination of Clean & Creative Professionally Taken photos of yourself

  • A write up containing:

- A brief history about you and your craft

- A description of the Exhibition

- Plans for the future

- Links to any online portfolios and social media accounts


There you have it, that is all for Part 3. Please check back with us next week for Last and Final, Part 4 of 4, of our 10 Step Guide to Putting on a Successful First Exhibition.

Next week, we look at "To Sell Or Not To Sell" and what to do on the all important "Opening Night"

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.

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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