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

Hello and welcome to Part 4 of 4 of Shifteye Studios 10 Step Guide to putting on a Successful First Exhibition.

This week in our final instalment, we shall be looking at "To Sell Or Not To Sell" and the all important "Opening Night".

9) To Sell Or Not To Sell

The million-dollar question, should I sell my work and if so for how much? Add to that, how is one meant to price their work? Is my work sellable? Valuing your work isn’t an exact science. Here are a couple of things to consider:

  • How long have you been working on your craft?

  • How long did you work on the piece?

  • How much did the materials you used cost?

  • What are artists with similar work selling their work for?

  • Do you otherwise sell your work elsewhere?

Visit other exhibitions and talk to the artists about their work and how they price them.

If you will be selling any of your work, make sure that this is indicated clearly alongside your pieces. If you choose not to have the prices displayed, make sure that this information is still available for guests who might be interested.

As a first time exhibitor, one important thing is to cover your costs. The main costs you want to cover are printing and framing. If the venue you have chosen is charging a commission, consider factoring that into the price of your artwork.

If you do not intend to sell your work simply place a "Not For Sale" sign by each piece.

10) Opening Night

D-Day has finally arrived! CARPE DIEM!

If your exhibition kicks off in the morning, get to the venue the day before and run through everything with the management, catering, bar, etc. In the morning get to the venue as early as the venue allows.

If the exhibition opening is set for the evening, get there in the morning and coordinate with management and all other vendors. Making sure all vendors arrive long before the opening to give you enough buffer room in the event any mishaps.

In the likely event you wont get a chance to go back home and change, carry everything you need to get ready for the opening.

9 times out of 10 you will need to make some form of speech. It doesn't need to be too long of a speech, about 5-10 minutes will do. For your speech consider including:

  • A vote of thanks to all those involved in the organisation of the exhibition

  • Talking about your journey as an artist, as well as your inspirations and aspirations

  • Talking about the work itself

If you plan to sell your work, have a notepad to jot down names of buyers, their contact details as well as their locations, for delivery of the artwork. Some buyers will pay right there and then, whilst others will prefer to reserve a piece and pay upon delivery. For any pieces bought or reserved, place a small coloured sticker by the piece to let your guests know that those pieces are no longer available.

Most important of all, mingle mingle mingle. Make yourself as accessible as possible and talk with as many people as you can. People love to know about the art from the artists and will have all kinds of questions for you. This is your time to shine and network like your life depended on it. Keep business cards on hand and dish them out like hot cakes.

If you invited press, give them a little bit more time than the other guests, do a couple of interviews if possible.

It's good to capture the opening for posterity... hire a photographer or perhaps ask a photographer friend (or several) for a favour in photographing your grand opening. Encourage your friends to live post photos during the exhibition to help generate a buzz on social media.

It's natural to be nervous about the speech. Keep a bottle of water nearby, the nerves can sometimes leave you feeling thirsty. Take a few deep breaths and just grab the bull by the horns. Own it, this day is yours! To make things a little different you could add a live musical performance, installation and/or a Q&A session during the opening.

After the Opening Night, even if the exhibition was for the one night, you need to make some noise and let the world know about your Exhibition Launch. Get any photos taken from the opening and share them all over social media as soon as you can. Reach out to anyone that left you a business card and get some feedback. Follow up with any guests that showed interest in your work, there could be some future clients lurking there.

Whether you are exhibiting alone or as a collective of creatives, it is always good to have someone on site to answer any questions about the work, handle sales and just for general safekeeping of the artwork.


There you have it, 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".

Last week in Part 3, we looked at, "Timelines & Budgets", "Marketing", "Contracts" & "Artists Statement & Press Kits", you can check out Part 3 HERE.

We hope this has been an insightful look into how to put on a great first exhibition. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

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

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