Exhibitions – Physical and virtual
by OCA SYP Photography Student Hazel Bingham
The first and most important item for organising an exhibition is a comprehensive realistic plan and budget with a contingency of about 10%. This should be updated as your planning progresses.
Throughout my OCA journey, I have enjoyed visiting exhibitions. When I first started attending Study Visits, I found there were times when I could not understand the artist’s work so instead I began looking at how the work was curated. This is something I would recommend as it will assist you when, and if, you are planning your own exhibition. View how the exhibition is set out; whether the work is framed and, if so, how; what size the pieces are – are they all the same? How is the gallery space used? Do the pieces flow? Are there any extras such as leaflets? Is the artist statement relevant and useful? If there are captions are they in the correct place and in a readable form? Are there large print versions for those who have difficulty seeing. These can all help when you are considering your exhibition.
There are many types of exhibition space some are in galleries, museums, libraries whilst some are outdoors. The HIP Gallery which I booked for my exhibition before lockdown is in a Shopping Centre complex. If there are local student degree shows, visit them and engage with the artist on duty. It is another way of finding out about gallery spaces, how much assistance you will receive from the gallery, how much it cost, whether you will be required to man it, and what you are permitted to do in the space. Research is the key. A Gallery space can be at a premium and may need to be booked a year or more in advance, or you could find a pop-up space available at short notice.
Following Covid-19 when physical spaces were closed indefinitely and the new normal is only slowly evolving, the possibilities of the need for an online gallery space have become apparent. For me, this involved searching for online spaces which would provide me with the tools to make my vision come alive and at a feasible cost. I decided Kunstmatrix would allow me to design a gallery space that would suit my work for 12$ or 10€ per month, which was not too expensive. More and more galleries are now making exhibitions online in different ways and better systems may develop in the future. By using the trial version of 10 images I was able to play with the software to see if I could design my exhibition using the templates.
Online gallery spaces may be difficult for those who make work which cannot easily be photographed or videoed. In some respects, experience in online gaming might be advantageous when choosing a package that includes using avatars as visitors, Mozilla hubs for example.
Once you have decided on a suitable gallery space the procedures needed to be put in place are similar for an online or physical space. Make a template for the gallery, decide on the size and shape of each piece of work to ascertain how many pieces you will need, then edit and re-edit your work until you are satisfied with the outcome. You will have an artist statement introducing your work and may or may not have captions alongside each piece.
Promoting your work
It is great to have your work accepted into an exhibition but if you don’t let people know where and when it is, visitors will be limited. Marketing and building up an audience is time-consuming and should be built into your plan. Using the free MailChimp scheme you can send up to 2,000 marketing emails. Promotion is also free on Eventbrite and ArtRabbit as well as your local and area arts groups, Visit(xyz-area) not forgetting the media (press and local radio) via a Press Release. Consider a multi-use flyer and/or a catalogue for a physical exhibition and the quantity you may use, then cost and add to your budget.
I used an excel spreadsheet to keep track of to whom, when and in what form I had marketed my exhibition so that when I had to cancel my physical exhibition and also market my virtual exhibition the information was to hand.
I would recommend using social media extensively to promote your work, linking them to your website. I have a Facebook page and Instagram account specifically for my projects and also use Twitter. By interacting and following other artists, galleries and curators they may then follow you. In my experience using social media has significantly helped me promote my work.
Emailing my contacts using a personal touch rather than a global invite resulted in a higher success rate when advertising my online Artist talk and exhibition.
Artist Talk and Study Visit
I originally planned an opening event followed by a Study Visit. As a result of the recent restrictions, I organised the Study Visit with a tutor and an artist in conversation talk online. Evaluating the results I found that I reached a far wider audience online than I would have done if I had followed my original plan. Moving into the future I would suggest that a combination of both physical and online.
Organising both an Artist Talk and a Study Visit involves considerable preparation and marketing. This includes sourcing the right tutor and, for me, an artist to talk to; funding from OCA if available; booking the online meeting room (Zoom Meeting or Zoom Webinar); preparing your work for an online presentation including joining instructions; preparing and marketing approximately two weeks before the event; ensuring you have an able assistant to run the tech and admin part of the visit/talk on the day. Finally, recording the event will enable you to evaluate it later.
One of the positive effects of lockdown is that we all have to think outside the box and to take risks, myself included. The online exhibition, Study Visit and Artist talk was not something I was considering but these have proved to be a fantastic way to promote my work to a wider audience. I am looking forward to being able to hang my work in a gallery as originally planned.
Curators, gallerists and artists are now looking at new ways of working so it is, in a way, a great time to be part of the new art world.
Hazel’s SYP blog (Exhibition pages) https://hazel281660.blogspot.com/
Mozilla hubs: https://hubs.mozilla.com/