Australian Fine Artist

Exhibiting and Galleries

A Brief Introduction for Artists and Art Students

For those of us who are confused or inexperienced about how to go about exhibiting our art or the types of gallery spaces available, we had a short session today at Chisholm to talk about what is currently in the art market place that we can consider.

Philip separated the kind of spaces in to a few easy to understand categories, so I will do the same.

Public Galleries

Public run galleries can be run by any of or a mix of: Federal Government, State Government, Local Government and private funding.
Examples of which are:

  • The National Gallery in Canberra
  • The NGV in Melbourne
  • The National Portrait Gallery
  • Regional Galleries such as Mornington Regional Gallery
  • Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
  • Heidi
  • McClelland Gallery and Sculpture Park

To be shown in one of these you need to have a high profile, be very well known and have an exceptional body of work for an exhibition. This means becoming known to the Gallery Directors and Managers. This may be via them getting around to exhibitions and seeing your work, having someone recommend your work or by meeting you at an event and getting to know about you.

Commercial Galleries

Commercial galleries can be found in most parts of the city and spread around regional towns as well. Because they are privately owned they must run as a business and make a profit. They run very differently from a government run gallery. These galleries take in artists that they feel will attract sales. They can be approached but you need to be prepared. Keep in mind that galleries in different parts of the city, suburbs and towns will have a different type of clientele with very different tastes in art they wish to buy.

To be prepared you will need to have:

  • Samples of your work either in book or folio form or well presented prints that are easy to handle. (Having enough to hand out and leave with the gallery isn’t a bad idea) You could also take a laptop or iPad with your artwork on it to show your work and website.
  • Business cards
  • An artist CV and statement
  • A well prepared web site for them to visit
  • A good sized body of work to prove you can put on an exhibition

Approaching a gallery with a show prepared will show that you are serious about supplying work in a professional manner.

You may also want to invite a gallery owner to your studio to see how you work and run your practice as well as your original art. Another way is to be introduced to a gallery owner by a mutual friend or acquaintance. This is why networking is important.

Go to openings and exhibitions, talk about your work, meet people and hand out business cards. Be seen. You never know where it may lead.

Artist Run Initiatives

Many of these are started by students that decide that trying to start up on their own is too expensive. A group can split the costs of hiring a space, running costs and advertising. Many well known artists have started this way, as it was their way of becoming noticed. You can start inviting gallery owners and collectors to your events to see who turns up and what attention you get. You can also talk to any local newspapers or local newsletters that may want to write an article about your group starting up in the area.

A good example of this is the initiative currently being run in Hastings Victoria. It was opened by three local members of federal, state and local government who gave their time to help kick start the endeavour. The shops are manned by volunteers and are using what would be empty shops to help bring more business to the area and also to showcase local artists.

Rent a Space

Spaces can be hired from many art groups such as Victorian Artists Society or AGRA. Members get a discount and the average cost is around $500-$700 per week. Other ARIs supply spaces for rent but there is often a waiting list which can be as long as a couple of years. Some commercial galleries also rent out space but usually have a waiting list as well and you need to meet their criteria for the type of work they want in their space.

There are some factories, shop fronts, commercial foyers and buildings that will rent you space if approached. Some schools and universities also have exhibition space so looking up the Victorian State Government and schools websites may supply ways of how to approach them. The ArtsVictoria website also has information that may help.

Your Own Gallery

In the end, or even before you start going through all these options, you may decide to show your work (and possibly that of colleagues) in your own gallery. This means you have the control on how long exhibitions run, what is shown and the look of the space etc.

A few things you will need to consider:

  • The building
    Its profile for passing traffic, how safe it is for people visiting and the amenities
    (toilets, food preparation, storage, parking, hanging space, office space)
  • Setting up a business name and an ABN
  • Setting up for GST
  • Web Site
  • Email
  • Accounts set up
  • Hanging facilities
  • Office facilities for printing out paperwork and record keeping
  • Insurance (commercial and public liability)
  • Signage
  • Phones and internet connection
  • Advertising costs
  • Water, power and phone running costs
  • Rental or mortgage costs for commercial premises
  • Opening hours and staffing

This is all before you put one work on a wall. It is a business so you need to approach it carefully. A business mentor isn’t a bad idea and they are available through various groups such as VECCI and NAVA.

In Conclusion

What you must think about first is having a profile. You won’t sell if nobody knows about you, similarly with getting into a gallery. Even when applying for grants having a good professional approach and presence will help. People will be more inclined to help you or grant you money if they are sure you will use it wisely and have a well prepared plan.

If you don’t have business cards, get some. I can help through a company we use in the Melbourne (Victoria) area that supplies 1,000 double sided cards through our business for a very good price – and they deliver to your door. You need to hand cards out where ever you go and as often as you can. Always have them on you. Design them well, as they advertises your art and you.

If you don’t have a web presence start with a free blog, but then move on to a professional web site as soon as your are able. If you don’t have a way of doing this for yourself, our business designs and builds websites for all types of business – including artists, as mine was built that way as well as one of our artist clients.

And finally… be persistent. Don’t give up. Talent alone will not make you successful, but perseverance may. Get out and let the world know who you are, what you do, and mostly how passionate you are about it. Your professionalism and dedication will go a long way in helping you get in doors and succeed. Good luck!

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