organising an exhibition part 1 venue, timing, opening hours, sharing the work and making ground rules

Approaching Rain, detail, oil on canvas, studio painting from plein air sketches, Vivien Blackburn

Organising an exhibition as a group:

This will depend on the type of group - I belong to large organisations who have committees, members voted in, who arrange and hang the shows. These may be juried and have a limit on the number of paintings that can be shown.

group is a small group of friends, who meet up once a month. We are all graduates/post graduates and critique each others work, talk about or arrange visits to exhibitions and put on shows of our own work from time to time. Being small it's essential that everyone helps out with the organisation in our group and that ground rules are arranged in advance.


For this show I came up with the venue but asked 2 other members to check it out and book it, to make sure that we would all be happy with it. The price was right, the space was just big enough. We were able to book it for a time that suited us, aimed at the Christmas market. The venue is in the very centre of a lovely market town in a beautiful timbered building on stilts. built in the 1600's. We are renting the room for the 2 days. Rules are our own.

How long?

The exhibition is only for 2 days - catching the Saturday shoppers and Sunday visitors to the antique fair in the square nearby.

Manning the exhibition and allocating space to participants:

It needs members in attendance each day to talk to visitors - and hopefully collect money for sales :>) so rotas need to be arranged.

There are 7 of us this time and we are fairly clear on the amount of space we need, having done this before. We divide the hanging space equally between those showing - whether members choose to hang huge paintings or small ones, the space allowed is the same.

Sharing the workload:

One member is providing the screens, I did the publicity - press release, posters, fliers and invitation design. Another member is organising the fishing wire we'll use for hanging, the boards are fiddly to hang requiring picture hooks at the top and then fishing wire (because it's almost invisible) and she's teaching us a slip knot to use with this to make adjustment easier. One has to work and another is away on the hanging day so arrangements are made to deliver and display their work. Our secretary keeps us all in line and updated with arrangements. Our treasurer keeps an eye on our funding. One member is a great saleswoman - useful skill :>)

It's essential to have someone with organisation skills (not me!) to keep everything on track and make sure we all know the timings of meeting/hanging/taking down /opening etc etc etc It avoids confusion and resentment over misunderstandings.

Forward planning:

We discuss potential venues well in advance, weighing up the pros and cons -

  • is it a suitable area? passing trade is important, new customers, not simply those invited because they are past buyers or friends
  • how many people pass by? are they likely to be interested? buyers? It's no good having vast hordes if none are art lovers
  • what is the best timing? January and February are normally the doldrums - Christmas is a good time and Spring can be too as people start thinking of trips out after the cold of winter.
  • Does it clash with a major event? We once clashed with a major England match and had a very quiet couple of hours in the afternoon!
  • what times to open? we generally find 10-4 is best. If a lot of people are still arriving at 4 we can always stay a bit later but generally things quieten down then.

Ground rules and allocating jobs:

People use their particular skills in a small group, but it's essential that everyone helps out. The ground rules of rotas, space allocation etc need to be in place - ours tend to roll over from show to show.

Part 2 will cover the publicity

Part 3 the hanging/arranging work

Part 4 extras such as prints and cards

Part 5 - post mortem!

We have snow and freezing temperatures so we are all pretty worried about this one - we are just hoping like mad that people still come. Having invited a lot of people and had 2 articles in local papers we need to be professional and go ahead with it whatever.

Keep your fingers crossed for us.

You can see work/publicity stuff here , here , here and here

and a reminder of who and where we are ......................


annie said…
Oh, I do love those clouds, Vivien. What a stunning and lovely painting.

Good luck with the show. So much is involved in setting this up. I hope it all goes well and catches the Christmas market big time.

Jean Spitzer said…
Love the detail; beautiful.

Thanks for posting about the show details. And, of course, good luck.
jo said…
"Great post, very useful for a beginner like me"
Great post Vivien - it'll be referenced tomorrow in "Who's made a mark this week?"
vivien said…
Thanks Annie and Jean :>)

Jo, good, I thought it might be helpful to others - we had to put on our own exhibitions as part of the degree and they taught us about press releases etc. It was all really useful, helpful stuff

Thanks Katherine :>)
Lunar Hine said…
Thank you. This is really useful for me. I'm just beginning to try making money from my art, so I need this kind of info.
And I am sooo envious of your skies. Delicate and powerful.
vivien said…
Thanks Lunar - and good luck

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