Art is a solitary endeavor. When a group of artists are all painting similar themes at the same time, each is different. Each is seen not only with different eyes, but head, heart and soul. We, the artists leave the displaying of our art to others, whether it is in a gallery or alternative space, the artist is usually at the mercy of others. Galleries and other spaces are individual entities that have their own slant on the age-old question, "What is Art".
There are times when artists get the opportunity to curate their own show. Just as there are pitfalls to having others making the choices of which art pieces are picked, the artist also faces dilemmas. The following is our journey as curators of our own exhibitions.
The artist must think as a businessperson before they embark on this journey. Exhibiting your artwork costs money, even if you are just opening your studio to the public.
Where to Show
When the Brushmeisters were looking for a space to show their work collectively, the first choice was a gallery or gallery-like space where our combined works melded with the mission of the gallery. We had already exhibited in shows where our work was next to each other or in a milieu that was open to a variety of themes, styles and media. We were fortunate to find just such a place for our first independent show.
How to choose the work
The first and most important task for the artist is to have a theme. The theme can be broad or very specific. This allows the artist to reduce the choices they have to pick from, while having a harmonious flow of images. When it is more than one artist involved, the theme is even more important. Each artist must adhere to a specific set of guidelines that the theme suggests. The theme could be entitled Works by ___, but one needs to understand that not everything they do is their best. Some of the worst shows, are too inclusive and lose the vitality of a cohesive body of work.
Hanging the show
It is important that the artist knows the size of the space available. Without knowing this, the artist can fall into two giant pitfalls. The first having pieces that are too large, the second having pieces too small. In either case when you get to the actual space you either have too much work or not enough. This is not the time to make your decisions. Planning before hand saves both time and aggravation. The next step is to always have more pieces than probably needed, since what looked good in the studio might not fit. It also allows for placing works that flow near each other or just the opposite, works that work off each other either in color, style or size. One can think of this phase as "laying out a deck of cards on a table", where you decide whether you want to combine the deck by suit, color or even in a random order. The difference, most of the time, is the size between the deck of cards and the artwork.
When we have hung our shows, we first lay all the work out on the floor in front of the space we have to hang. We then stand back and shuffle the works (just like a deck of cards) around until we are satisfied with the overall look. If there are several walls we actually lay out the whole show on the floor. Only then do we begin to hang the work. Nothing is fool proof, so occasionally we will still make changes once the work is already hung. We might replace a work with one originally not chosen or move one or more pieces. In actuality we are now seeing the work up on the walls, as others will. However this is minimal in comparison to what we would have to have done if we didnít plan it out first.
How to let the world (or locality) know about the show
PR or Public Relations is as important as all of the above, especially if you want to sell your work or at the very least be recognized for your accomplishments. Depending on where you are there are many ways to let the public know about your exhibition. It could be as simple as flyers and postcards mailed to people who know you or on a broader scale actually having a Press Release that can be sent to local papers, magazines that promote art shows, and local cable TV.
It is important to know your area. The Brushmeisters have been showing in NYC where there are many avenues to follow to get the word out. However no matter where you are, having a single page Press Release that includes the name (or theme) of your show, place, dates and times of exhibition and contact info are essential. It also helps to have a brief biography of the artist(s), copies of several images and include any reviews or other information that shows the importance of you, the artist. Combining all of this information is called a Press Packet. We believe, as artists we are the best advertisement for ourselves, yet too much is also not good. The basic "who, what, where, when and how" information, peppered with just enough background and images is the best way to go especially if you are new to exhibiting your work.
An Opening Reception allows for many people to see your show at one time. Usually this takes place as soon as or very close to the date when your exhibition is open to the public. This is a good time to formally invite not only friends and family but also people who would be interested in arts. These people could be critics form the local papers, funding sources, and heads of other local galleries. This Opening reception is good place to network. Networking is an artistís best friend. Many an artist will be in a group show and be singled out by another gallery or alternative space because their work is the kind of work these places are interested in.
Earlier in this article I refer to "knowing the mission of the gallery or alternative space" you would like to show in. Often a gallery is just the right place for your work one-year and not the next. Personnel changes and with that so often the view of "What is Art" is not necessarily the same as the previous people you dealt with. Donít get disheartened Ė just move ahead and look for a new space. We have.
All images are owned by the individual artist and any copying or reprinting of any image is not allowed without the express written permission of the Artist.