HOW TO HAVE AN EXHIBITION PART 2
Following on from our last post, How To have An Exhibition, part 1, here is the second half of things you need to know about organising an exhibition, mainly marketing, publicity and the opening night.
When you’re designing your flier, take a critical look at the artwork you are presenting in the show. Although your favourite might be a delicate pastel in pastel shades of pink and blue, while artistically it might be the best, visually it might not work so well on the flier.
The image you want to choose for the flier needs to be strong. Something that looks visually interesting from far away. Remember the flier image isn’t just about getting the details across, it’s about interesting people that don’t know your exhibition is on to come along. So the flier needs to stand out.
Remember to put the details of the gallery on the flier. People need to know where to go to see your work! You’ll need:
Title of exhibition
List of artist/s
The name of the gallery
The address of the gallery
The phone number and website of the gallery
Once you have your flier, give it to your artists to distrubute through their networks. Mail it or email it to everyone you know. Put some out in local friendly cafes and shops and give some to your gallery to put out and send to their mailing list. Let people know that your awesome exhibition is coming up!
You’ll want to let the media know that your exhibition is happening too. You need to steel yourself for the fact that you might get little to no coverage at all, the media has loads of people emailing them every day telling them about events, so they can pick and choose what they want to publicise.
However, having said that, local papers are always looking for stories with local angles. So find out what your local paper is, also if your gallery/location has a different local paper and if any of the artists have a different local paper.
So you need to write a press release. It needs to have the details about your exhibition and what makes your exhibition interesting. Is it the theme? The artists? Is it a fundraiser for something? Whatever it is, use short, clear sentences to explain. A journalist is very busy and will often just lift sentaces right out of the press release to use in the article. If the sentances are run on, or really long, or badly worded, the journalist usually doesn’t have time to fix it, instead they might turn to someone else’s press release and promote their event instead.
Remember you need to put all the details into the press release. These include
The name of your exhibition
The name of all the artists
The gallery it’s held at
The times the gallery is open
Contact details for the gallery, including phone number, address and website.
The opening night details.
Also, you need to put a media contact on the press release. This is yourself or one of the artists, someone involved in the show. They need to be able to speak confidently and knowledgably about the show, the artists involved and the idea behind it. This is so that if anyone wants any more information, they have someone they can call.
Once you have written your press release, where do you send it? The answer is everywhere.
All papers have contact details inside them. So pick up:
Your local paper/s
Your city paper/s
Any street press/free papers that your city has
Do an internet search on local and community radio stations in your area, they like to find local stories to share with their listeners.
Does your exhibition have a theme that might be of interest to some magazines? For example, if it’s an exhibition about dresses, grab some fashion magazines and email them. If it’s a photography exhibition about bands, grab some music magazines and find out their contact details.
Contact your local television stations. They might be interested enough to send out a reporter to cover the story.
You loose nothing by contacting everyone you can think of. There’s a saying – “You already have no, why not try for yes?”. This means that all these media outlets are already not covering your exhibition, so why not contact them to let them know it’s on. If they still don’t cover it, you’ve lost nothing, however they might cover it, and they can only know about it and make that choice if you contact them.
Organising the Opening
Although there are a number of things that are customarily at openings, you can get as detailed or not as you like.
Usually an opening is like a little, civilized party to celebrate the exhibition itself and to show people your art. It’s also nice to have a nice little milestone at the end of all that work you’ve done organizing it. An opening also concentrates your visitors, most of them will come to the opening and then a smaller amount will come to visit the show through out the duration of the show.
Here are some things that usually happen at an opening:
• There are some kind of little finger food
• There are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks available (either for free or for purchase)
• There is a speech by someone to welcome all the guests (sometimes this is the curator or gallery owner)
• There is a speech about the art, ideas and/or themes (by someone else, usually someone who has had nothing to do with the exhibition, but sometimes the curator or an artist)
• People have a nice time
• People buy some of the artwork
Now, none of these things actually have to happen, you don’t even need to have an opening, but it’s a nice thing for the artists and it encourages people to come visit the show, so it’s a good idea if you can manage it.
The speech by someone is a really good idea, it brings a focal point to the evening instead of having it just trail along. If you choose to do it, it’s a great chance to say some nice things about the artists and other people that have helped you on your way. You can introduce someone else or just welcome people, tell them about the journey of creating this exhibition and thank everyone for coming.
If you are looking for someone else to make a speech too, ask a mid-career artist you know, an old university lecturer, a local council member or politician. You could even ask someone who feels strongly about the theme, for example if your exhibition’s theme is about bugs, ask a scientist in to chat about bugs in general and the ones depicted in particular.
If you know any musicians, you might think about asking them to do a little acoustic gig in the corner of the gallery. If you can’t pay them, maybe have some fliers advertising them pon a table somewhere, or allow them to sell their latest CD at the opening (check with the gallery owner, as galleries take commission from artwork sold they might want to take a commission on this sale too). Otherwise, think of some quiet background music you might like to play during the opening to add to the atmosphere.
People often expect that there will be drinks at an opening. Sometimes the gallery will do this as part of your hiring fee, which is great, but if they don’t, it can get expensive. There are a number of ways to do it cheaper. If you are considering serving alcoholic drinks, in Australia you will need someone with a Responsible Serving of Alcohol certificate. Again, ask around your friends, if you know any waiters or bar staff (or people who have worked those jobs in the past) you’ll know someone with a RSA.
If you are serving alcoholic drinks, remember to provide non alcoholic options for those who don’t drink, or are too young too.
You can go to discount supermarkets to get some wine and fruit juice, usually there will be red and white wine, fruit juice and water. Sometimes there is also Champaign and or soft drinks too. But if you’re trying to limit the amount you’re spending, red and white wine and some juice will be fine. Chilled tap water is totally acceptable as an option on the table and it doesn’t costs you a cent.
You’ll also need glasses to serve the drinks in, either the gallery might have them, you can hire them (expensive) or you can get disposable cups.
Sometimes openings have finger food, but don’t feel you need to if you don’t want. Food can get expensive as whoever prepares it needs to have a Food Handling certificate. You can ask around your friends, but as this is a bigger job (preparing all the food) don’t be surprised if no one steps up to volunteer. Most supermarkets can provide you with platters from their deli departments, or you can hire a caterer to do it, which is more expensive. If you want to go down that route, ring a few and get some quotes – it might be cheaper than you think.
If you’ve never done an opening before it can be very hard to estimate how many people will turn up. This is another reason food can get expensive. If you order way too much you might end up throwing some out, or eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next week, and if you order too little it might run out before the speeches start.
One way to get around this is to ask people to RSVP to the opening, with a final date (a week before the opening date is a good amount of time). That way you’ll at least have a rough idea of who is coming.
So, having read all of that, you are well prepared to organise your next exhibition. Good luck! We hope it’s a great success!