The full set of Exhibition Tips will be compiled into a PDF, along with a checklist. As soon as it's complete, the PDF will be available to all people who receive the emails.
Have your coffee and snack ready? Good, let's jump right in!
My "exhibition toolbox"
Basically, my box contains just about anything I could think of related to hanging a picture - plus, other items I've found to be handy. I'll just take the easy way out and list every thing in the box.
- The box...I started with a simple cardboard box. As my inventory of needed/convenient items grew, I graduated to a large, flat, plastic box with lid and wheels. The wheels allow me to roll it under my work table when it's not in use. (Wheels aren't essential, you can just push the box under a table or bed.)
- hammer (in case you need to place nails/classic picture hangers for hanging)
- nails/classic picture hangers - make sure you have a variety of sizes that will support different picture weights.
- a 30 foot long tape measure (the kind with a locking mechanism).
- a battery operated laser light level. These are especially helpful if you are hanging pictures on adjacent walls. The light will actually break onto the level plane of the adjacent wall so all pictures will be at the same height.
- needle-nosed pliers. Never can tell when you'll need to remove "something".
- Pencils for marking nail/hanger spots. Also for marking "side-lines". (More information about "side-lines" below)
- graphing paper with 1/4 inch grid lines. Comes in handy for mapping out placement of each photo on a wall.
- Binder clips (medium size) Have you ever had to hang a picture on a wall with "floaty fabric"? Binder clips do a great job of holding the fabric behind the picture.
- Monkey hangers (standard and heavy duty). You can push the tail of these hangers into drywall, rotate them, and then hang on the "hook". I have found these to be very useful and secure with "temporary walls" and heavy pictures. No wall-stud is required to stabilize the weight of the picture.
- Red "dot" labels. It seems the universal sign for a "sold" piece of work is a red dot stuck to the picture. The red dot may or may not have "S" inscribed.
- Business cards and business card holder (for information tables)
- Artist tack or Museum wax/putty - Useful for stabilizing bottom corners of each picture against the wall or attaching naming labels to the wall or picture.
- Tabletop easels (in case your exhibit area includes horizontal surfaces).
- One or two acrylic holders for brochures/artist bio, etc.
- One role of duct tape and/or clear adhesive tape - Good for securing excess wiring from a ceiling track system behind your picture.
- Extra tags with your name/logo and contact information in case you have to replace a tag.
- Mr. Clean Eraser Bars are great for removing marks on walls.
- Stepladder. It won't fit in your box, but have one handy to take with you.
Tags - You will need tags to be placed either onto your picture or on the wall under/beside your pictures. These are perfect uses of museum wax. On the tag you want the name of the piece, the price, your name and a way for a buyer to contact you. If the piece belongs to a numbered series (i.e., #25 of 50), include the number.
It is easy to purchase pre-sized labels from the local office supply store - maybe six labels per page. You can add your logo/contact information under an "edit all" tab (use the proprietary software of the label company). By switching to a "edit one" tab, you can add the title of the work and price for each tag. Print.
Then, stick the printed labels onto pre-cut heavyweight paper/cards.
Alternately, you can use pages of inkjet printer business cards. (I prefer the first method to keep the edges of my cards "sharp".)
Artist bio/resume - Your venue may have expectations about what is contained in your bio, including art-related education and the number of exhibitions you have presented. Your venue may also have a word limitation for the combined bio/artist statement.
Consult the "The Great Oracle of Google" for examples of an artist bio/resume.
Each exhibition audience will be different. Consequently, you want to identify your experiences, your skills, your credentials, your education, your previous exhibitions, in a manner that is most relevant to your given audience. You may have an audience that values your "PhD and decorated military veteran". If it works for your audience - use it.
Be sure to include any mentors and awards/distinctions you have garnered.
Artist statement - Someone is going to put words and descriptions to your artwork and it should be you! Speak about your own work instead of letting someone else define it for you.
I have seen artist statements that are a leaflet (!) and some that are only three sentences.
Here are some suggestions about the content of your artist's statement. (Thanks to Adam Marelli for these suggestions.)
- 10% - 15% - Your description of the work
- 80% - What is the work doing?
- 5% - 10% - What does the work do for you? or, better yet, the viewer?
"Insomnia is the reason these twilight landscapes exist. The luminosity of the landscapes suggests an ethereal beauty, awe, and a grand silence not experienced when seen in daylight hours. The viewer encounters the isolation of the sleepless photographer; an isolation that fuels the quest for a solitary peace."
(Whoa!!!! Those words just burbled out my through my fingertips! I call "dibs" on that artist's statement.)
Need ideas or inspiration for your artist's statement? Review some of the art books about your favorite artist/photographer. Reading the original words of the artist can guide you in the descriptions of what your work is doing and how the viewer responds. (My personal favorites are Paul Caponigro and A. Aubrey Bodine.)
Another great example - Sister Wendy Beckett. Her reviews of major art works are instructive of how a viewer may experience any work of art. Sister Wendy's reviews come directly from her experience of the artwork - not from a formal art education.
The job of your artist's statement is to give viewers a starting point for their reveries about your work.
Make it easy for them...let them know what you want them to consider.
The physical hanging of the prints
It is always helpful to have a second pair of hands when you are hanging a large show. Now, "large" can mean a large number of pictures/prints or it can mean large in size. I could not have managed to make it up and down a ladder while holding onto 40 x 30 inch framed photos. Extra hands were greatly appreciated!
A common recommendation for hanging pictures is the mid-point of the picture should be at eye level for a person 5 feet 6 inches tall. Personally, I prefer my pictures to be a couple inches higher - just a personal preference, no other reason.
- I walk to the wall, place my nose against the wall and make a pencil mark at my eye level. This mark becomes the mid-point. Now, here's the part where the arithmetic falls into place.
- Measure your picture from top to bottom - let's say it's 20 inches. The mid-point of the picture is 10 inches.
- Next, pull the hanging wire taut and measure from the mid-point of the picture to the top of taut wire - let's say 4 inches.
- Walk back to your eye level mark on the wall and measure up 4 more inches. This is where you will place your nail.
- If you are using classic "J" hooks, the BOTTOM of the "J" hook will be placed on this new mark. Nail the "J" hook accordingly.
Suppose your plan (remember that graph paper?) indicates a 3 inch gap from one frame to the next. Here's what to do.
- Measure 3 inches from the edge of the frame you just hung - mark the wall. This is your side line.
- Measure the width of your picture - let's say 18 inches. Your mid-point will be 9 inches.
- From your side-line, measure 9 inches horizontally along the wall. Mark it.
- Now, using your level make sure your new mark aligns vertically with your eye level mark.
- Repeat steps 1 through 5 above.
It has been my experience that hanging an exhibit always takes a little longer than I anticipated, for a variety of reasons. When you are planning to hang your exhibit, allow yourself plenty of time so you can work without the additional stress of time constraints.
Ahh...everything is hung. The walls look good. You may find yourself relieved, yet tired, sweaty and cranky. (Or is that just me?)
It's okay...it happens. A shower, glass of wine and a chunk of chocolate have restorative powers. (I've been told beer and pizza are effective, also.)
Now is the time to celebrate your artistic milestone. You have an exhibit! Yea!!!!!
Wait...what's this? Fear is making itself felt. You might want to read this post about finding the real root of one's fear that pops up with an exhibition. Reframe your fearful thoughts. Is there something in the fear that you can learn from and then, change? And, quoting a certain Disney movie..."Let it go."
Yea for you! Congratulations on your first exhibit and may you have many more!
Expect the best. Anything else is an adventure.
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Have you found this 2 part series helpful? Do you have any tips, comments, or questions you would like to share? Comment in the section below, or over on the Facebook page. And share on your social media. Thanks!