Tips for Organising Your Own Exhibition

I just had an email from a friend, Liz Martin, who is organising her own exhibition, this can be a good option, but there is a lot to organise.  I have done it a few times before so I gave her this checklist.


Aim to have them finished 3 weeks before the exhibition, which means start organising them 5 or 6 weeks before you need them.This way you have time to put some in public places and post the others so people have them 1-2 weeks before the exhibition. Carry a few everywhere you go and give them to anyone who seems interested. Get a pdf of the invitation and email it to everyone! Email a reminder on the day.
Choose an image for invitations that is a good example of what you have in the show. Ask a few people which image they like best and ask people who are not necessarily arty. You might be surprised what they choose.
Make sure all the info is correct place, time, date, gallery opening hours, contact phone number, double-check by ringing the phone number, get 2 other people to read a proof, check spelling.
Ask the printer what format the pic and the artwork need to be in to get the best result. Are you laying it out yourself or getting the printer to do it, what software does it need to be created in? Do you have an example of the kind of invite you want? Printing colour is tricky. Tell the printer you are fussy and will pay extra to see a proof of how the colour will turn out when printed. Computers use light to show colour, very different from 4 colour process printed colour.  Sometimes things can go wrong in the translation. It is worth paying extra for colour correction of the image if necessary. Don’t assume your printer has a visual sensibility. Remember he/she is used to printing carpet cleaning flyers, you will need to spell things out, don’t take anything for granted.


If you don’t have money for a printed catalogue write something about the work and have it on the back of the price list. It could be either the process of making it the thought behind it a quote or an essay by an art writer. People who are educated about what your art is about are more likely to buy and have an enriched experience of your exhibition.

Media release

This is important, local papers, the local paper at the exhibition venue, national papers magazines, Arts TV programs they all should receive your media release.  A photo of you with the work is good and then perhaps one or two more of just the work. Write the article that you would like to see in the paper. Put it on hard copy with print outs of the images and also put it on a disc. Send both to as many places you can think of write different media releases for different publications if they have a different audience. Ideally phone and ask who you should address it to and what their email address is. Send the hard copy with disc and also email it! Send them a reminder just before the show, send them an invitation to the opening.

 Opening Night

Food – is optional, depends on cost and your budget.
Wine  – sometimes you can find a small winery to sponsor you, free wine at the opening for a logo and mention on the invite and an opportunity to sell at the opening or sign people up for their wine club. It can be a win-win situation.  Otherwise see if you can get a bulk discount from a winery, make sure its drinkable though!  People are more likely to buy if they are relaxed with a glass of wine, if it didn’t work galleries wouldn’t do it. Although I have been to afternoon openings which are tea coffee and cakes kind of like a high tea? If you are going to do that put it on the invitation so people know what to expect.
Drinks Table – with a nice cloth (to hide the esky with wine underneath) look and be professional. You will probably also want someone to serve the wine.

Put the drinks table in a position away from the door near the back so you have to walk past all the artwork to get a drink. This is important, I have seen people hang around a drinks table near the door get chatting to someone and not even look at the work! If they want a free drink they will have to walk past all of your artwork.
Sales Desk/Table If you have a friend or relative who is able to process sales that will free you up to chat to people. It is better to put this near the door with price lists. Also have a lable and price under each piece of work. Make it clear the work is for sale. Don’t handwrite it! Print it out in a clear easy to read font, mount it on foamcore board and nealy cut them the same size using a craft knife and ruler.
Why do I need a pricelist if the work is labled? So people have something to take home with them and of course it goes without saying your website will be on the pricelist and your phone and email. Many decisions to buy art are made after the event.
My next exhibition is with Kingfisher Gallery in West Perth so the gallery will be organising a lot of this but I will need to stay involved.  It will be next March if you would like an invitation email me or click here to see a preview of the exhibition

Thinking Differently, oil painting for my New exhibition
Thinking Differently, oil painting for my new Exhibition

8 Replies to “Tips for Organising Your Own Exhibition”

  1. This was a superb article – very thorough and easy to understand and follow . There is a local venue that if I exhibit there I will be responsible for all of the details, and after reading this, I have a better idea of what to do to make it a success.

  2. I really love this article. I tried to print it and only about a quarter of the article would print. I would really like it for futrue reference. Is there any way I can print it as I am doing my first show in July?
    Thanks, Kim

  3. I don’t know why it wouldn’t print, let just say I know more about exhibiting art than I do about computers. It will stay on my blog so you can come back to it any time: )

  4. Thanks again for your invaluable advice Shana, especially the info about how to organise media releases and really being pro-active about getting stuff out there. I am feeling much more confident about July already! x

  5. Thanks for sharing this valuable information… I hope to hold my first solo show in Dubai next year and I want to use this blog as a check-list! I wish you luck and success!

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