How to Choose an Art Exhibition Venue

PART 2: From the Art Exhibition Planning Guide

Once you have determined the number of pieces you would like to exhibit, you are ready to begin your search for a great venue. Exhibition venues vary  from showing in your own studio, to a library, park, community centre, café or artist run gallery. Other worthy spaces to consider are banks, credit unions, malls, waiting lounges, wineries and cruise ships.
Most of these spaces are free or by donation.

A very successful artist once told me you should never pay to show your work. His reason being that venues that charge a large fee for renting their space, are in the business of renting their space—not selling your work. The exception: Location, location, location. If you decide to pay for a space, be sure it is gets high retail traffic and comes with experienced gallery-staff to do the job of selling your art. See my post of different types of galleries to learn more about paid venues and showing in professional galleries.

Take caution showing your art in a restaurants, cafes or hair salons as environmental conditions such as humidity, grease, food, bleach and ammonia can be especially damaging to artwork. Although these venues are usually free, restaurants are lit for atmosphere not art—which means your art will not look its best.

20 Things You Need to Know About Your Art Venue

Don’t Commit Until You Complete this Checklist

Use  this checklist of questions to help you determine which space would best suit your marketing needs, budget, sales goals and timeline.

1. What dates are available for you to exhibit?

2. How long can an exhibit be hung? Ideally you want one week, book-ended by 2 weekends.

3. How much wall space is available? Do you share it with any other artists or is it used for other purposes during your show dates?

4. Do you need easels, can you hammer nails into the walls?

5. Will you need to repair/repaint walls après show?

6. What kind of lighting is available?

If the lighting is poor, I suggest omitting the venue. Or budget for buying some lamps that will clamp to your easels.

7. What are (if any) the rental costs (including insurance, commissions to the venue operator).

8. You will need to have two sorts of insurance. Public Liability insurance, to protect visitors and insurance to cover your work in the event of a fire or theft

9. If you are getting the space for free, consider offering a percentage of the Opening Night sales proceeds to a charity. Choose a charity that will help you market the event through their mailing list.

10. Does the venue offer a caterer or bar for the reception?

11. Are you obligated to use their service provider?

12. Does it have a kitchen/bar?

13. What hours are they open to the public?

14. Is the venue staffed? Who pays the staff?

15. Do they have qualifications to sell art?

16. Is there safe parking for your guests? Public transportation nearby?

17. When a piece is sold, how do you get paid?

18. Do you need to supply a cash float, what methods of payment are available?

19. Do they have a existing guest list of “qualified” art buyers?

20. Is there a contract between the venue and the artist outlining all the above?

Absolute clarity is a must, if your venue doesn’t have a contract, take the time to draft a letter of understanding (outlining all the answers to the above).

I hope you found PART 2 of this Series helpful. If you would like to learn more about art marketing be sure to subscribe using the sign-up box at the bottom of this post.

If you are planning for an exhibition and need some immediate advice, please feel free to contact me. Good luck with your search for a fabulous exhibition venue!


Related Posts:

Part 1: How to Choose Your Best Art to Exhibit

Comment on this post and let us know:

Where have you exhibited your work?

What was your worst experience with an exhibition venue?

What do you think about paying for a venue space?