COASTING - notes from an exhibition
Posted on January 31 2022
I've just returned from a week away in a very happy place. An art exhibition with a dear friend on the surf coast in summer. Happy happy happy. It wasn't half as harrowing as I thought so I put together some tips that helped it run smoothly.
Jo and I met a long time ago under our market umbrellas in the Royal Botanic Gardens Market in Melbourne. A friendship formed as we self-guided our craft side-hustles into creative design small businesses in the 16 years since *blink blink* *checks dates* *mouth drop*. The pandemic meant no more face to face trade shows for me, no more workshops for Jo so we turned to our art, a daily DM check in (we are 300kms apart) and shared Campari at the end of a day painting. Salut!
We always marvelled that our work while being different genres always looked good together. We shared the same aesthetics, the same palettes.
I've had a few exhibitions, albeit not since 2005, so I knew what to expect. And a lifetime lugging stuff all over the world (hello London, looking at you Auckland) for design events and trade shows means the logistics of setting up was something we could both do in our sleep.
Even though I was very rusty with all my gear sitting untouched for 2 years and my headspace still in a fog of pandemic inertia, the actual process of setting up a show was probably one of the easiest and enjoyable afternoons I've spent in a long time.
We were in a space we were both familiar with and putting our best foot forward was second nature.
So what made it easy? Experience, without a doubt. We were so lucky that the physical aspect of displaying something to look its best has been part of our creative businesses.
The actual gallery space was a dream. A lovely single room with white panelled walls, a gallery hanging system and professional lighting, overlooking the bay and a local koala sun-baking on the roof across the road was the ideal setting.
Another way it seemed easy? I'm a list nerd. My admin skills are second to none. Thank you very much nearly 25 years in the corporate world *spits coffee*. Didn't think I'd ever publicly acknowledge that! But here we are. I'm grateful for my early corporate career. Lesson: even in the depths of a miserable job, there is always something you can take with you. Pitman 2000, anyone?
Some key things that worked for me, they might work for you too.
- a bio/artist statement on the wall that relates to the work hanging. Why the show came to be and how it informed the work on show. My statement was only 120 words and my bio only 60 words. This is what felt right for me, it felt lovely when people stopped to read it without me having to jump in and break their peace with my introduction.
- labels for each piece including my name, artwork name, medium and price. I also included a paragraph with a ... blurb (how's that corporate background working for you now, Michelle - blurb, really?! LOL) My work was abstract and Jo's was landscape and still life. I don't believe there are any rules for looking at artwork and you should respond to whatever you feel and see when you look at work. But I do like to tell a story, and my work is mixed media, layered, process oriented and I'm always looking for the story as I paint. I found again that people liked to read the background without my big energy barging in on their visit!
- it seems obvious, but a pencil case with the usual suspects. A pen, blue tac, sticky tape, paper clips, scissors, ruler, spirit level, etc. These are the little things that mean you are not running around like a headless chook on hanging day.
- working to a schedule to make sure flyers and postcards are printed well before the show. Set a deadline and work backwards. Allow extra time for shipping delays if you order these online.
- Stuff to wrap and pack sold artwork. And because I'm a neat freak, plan a spot to keep the transit packaging tucked away out of site. The car, for instance.
- water and a reusable coffee cup! Make sure you've got something to sit on, plan an admin spot for sales that doesn't block art on display. You'll need to keep phones/iPad, square readers, and inventory lists to track sales somewhere nearby. We also lugged along our travel art kits and sketchbooks and I'm happy to say that one day in 6 we actually dabbled.
I'm pretty sure these are obvious and I'm not saying we got it perfectly right. But the basics were covered and that meant everything ran smoothly. I hope it helps you. We did make a lot of notes for next time (next time!!!) and can't wait to do it again.
clockwise l-r: A koala sun-baking, fish and chips by the harbour, Maits Rest forest bathing, early morning walk on Marengo Beach.