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Selecting the Art for your Exhibition Proposal

December 15, 2009

installation shot of abstract paintingThis post is part of my series that covers getting your art into galleries. After you’ve found the right galleries to apply to, you need to put together an exhibition proposal. One essential element of your proposal is the artwork.

Think hard about the art that you include in your proposal. This work should reflect you as an artist and represent your ideas, motivations, and goals.

Make sure the pieces you choose look like they belong together. There should be some common theme that runs through every piece, whether it’s subject matter, materials, colour or process. Decide what you want the focus of your show to be, and select work that supports that theme. Your artist statement should also reflect this theme.

For example, even though I do abstract and realistic work, I wouldn’t submit them together. I would choose what type of work I wanted to exhibit (this would also depend on the gallery I was applying to) and submit the best examples.

Galleries are looking for works that are going to serve a purpsoe hanging on the wall. They want a presentation that will, depending on the gallery, create discussion and interaction or encourage sales. Keep this in mind as you make your selections.

One type of show that I’ve seen work well is having one or two large pieces supported by a series of smaller studies for the painting. If you work in this way, you might think about submitting the prepatory works from a series as well as the “finished piece.”

Try to be objective about the art that you submit. Sometimes, our favorite pieces are not necessarily our best pieces. Ask yourself why you want to include each piece and really consider how it will fit into the show. You want to make sure you select the only the strongest works for gallery consideration.

Depending on the type of work you do, it may also be helpful to send installation shots. This means images of your work hanging on the wall. This can be helpful to curators because they can get a better feel for the size and presentation of the work. The presence of a piece doesn’t always come across in a close-up crop, but can translate better in an installation shot.

Remember that each piece should work on its own, but the selection of art should also work as a group.

The work in your proposal may not always reflect the work you are wanting to exhibit. If you are proposing a show for art that you haven’t yet created, it’s even more important that the pieces in your proposal reflect you as an artist. Select art that shows what you are capable of doing and supports the same theme as the work you plan on doing. Make sure clearly state in your proposal the type of exhibit you want to have and how your portfolio relates to your ideas.

Another thing to consider is how you are going to present your portfolio. Will you send pictures, slides, or digital images? Sometimes this is completely your choice, and sometimes the gallery will request one or the other. Make sure you carefully read the guidelines to find out!

Whatever type of documentation you choose, make sure you get good quality images. The curator is going to need to clearly see your work in good lighting.

The next part of this series will be how to document your art work. Sign up for an email subscription to get the latest articles in your inbox!

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