I borrowed the book "Exhibiting Photography", by Shirley Read, from the library and it has been a huge help to me. Below are some notes I took thanks to the book - it basically covers the idea of what an exhibition is and all the steps we need to take along the way to get it up and running. I do want to apologise for the length of this post!
What is an Exhibition?
--Any conventional exhibition space (which can include commercial and publicly and privately funded galleries and museums)
--A variety of other spaces where work is sometimes shows (such as community centres, open studios, cafes, bars, restaurants, libraries, cinema and theatre foyers, schools, colleges, and churches)
--Temporary spaces or events (such as photo fairs and festivals, talks, workshops, and conferences)
--Online galleries and web sites (such as Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook)
--Other people’s homes (through sales and loans)
--The street and public art (including hoardings, projections, performances, hospitals, and other public buildings)
--Photographic competitions that result in an exhibition
--Exhibition catalogues, publications and press images
“I completed a major piece of work and then sent out the usual promotional information to curators and editors. Much to my dismay I heard nothing for over a year – then out of the blue, in the space of a fortnight, I received exhibition offers from two curators. My advice to photographers is not to give up or lose confidence in the work. Don’t put it away and forget it!” – Grace Lau, photographer
8 Reasons to exhibit:
--Getting the work seen
--It’s a career marking point
--To get feedback about the work
--It’s good practice
--It marks the completion of the work
--To build up connections and a mailing list
--It’ll lead to something else
--Business cards – easily kept in a photographer’s wallet and is generally useful when making new contacts.
--Postcards – people enjoy postcards and they are a good way to circulate an image.
--CDs – useful in that they can be posted or left with a potential client or curator as a reference, record or reminder.
--Portfolios – to show curator a potential show
--Website – hold a broader range of work and can reach to a wider geographically distant audience
What is the curator’s role?
“Curators are, above all, the institutionally recognized experts of the art world establishment, whether they operate inside an institution or independently. More than art critics or gallery dealers, they establish the meanings and status of contemporary art through its acquisition, exhibition, and interpretation”. – Mari Carmen Ramirez, curator of Latin American Art
Presentation is crucial to the installation of photographs in the gallery. Photographers talk about the presentation of their work all the time, unlike painters and sculptors for whom presentation is usually a secondary consideration. For both curator and photographer, discussion of different options in mounting, framing, sizing and editing or sequencing work can take priority over discussion of the photograph itself.
These are the words of Shirley Read, although I do not agree with the above statement. I think that the most important thing is the photograph. I would rather want people to speak about my photograph and its composition, colours and meaning rather than the way it is presented.
Hiring a gallery:
Hiring a gallery brings with it all the advantages of having a space specifically designed for showing artwork. The gallery should also have systems in place for promoting the work and attracting visitors.
One of the key things to remember when you do hire a gallery is that, as far as the gallery is concerned, taking down the show is as important as putting it up. If you leave the gallery in a mess, that particular gallery won’t hire it to you again and may bill you for cleaning, damage and redecoration.
--Organizing publicity and invitations
--Talking to press
--Planning exhibition design and presentation
--Planning accompanying events, educational programs, or artists’ talks
--Preparing the venue
--Planning the private view
--Organizing gallery attendants, security personnel, or invigilators during opening times
--Preparing to hang the work and clean up afterward
--Writing all the exhibition texts including captions and titles
--Pricing and insuring work
One of the most neglected areas of exhibition preparation is generally the text. This is often because photographers see themselves as visual rather than verbal people and either dislike writing or ignore its importance in showing the work. But exhibitions almost always entail a certain amount of textual material.
Text should include:
--An introduction to the exhibition and texts that accompany the images or different sections of the exhibition
--Keep text short
--Keep it straightforward
--All basic and essential information is covered (places, dates, names)
--Avoid emotive words and keep an objective tone
--Avoid intimate personal statements
Attracting a local audience:
One of the audiences an artist can reach is a local audience – casual passersby as well as regular visitors, people who have seen a review in a local paper or heard through word of mouth that the exhibition is interesting. Local audiences are sometimes slightly resistant to looking at artwork, feeling perhaps that it is outside their experience to visit a gallery, so it is worth making a particular effort to bring them into the exhibition.
--Talk to owners of shops, restaurants, wine bars or cafe’s in the nearby area
Documenting and evaluation:
--You need to keep a record for you own reference and c.v. As unbelievable as it seems at the time, you may well have forgotten basic details of the exhibition (such as dates and names of co-exhibitors) by the time you need to quote them
--You need to keep a record to show to galleries, critics, curators or publishers and to use when giving a talk or lecture about the work in the future
--It will be useful when looking for promotion, sponsorship or funding in the future
--It will be useful as a visual record of work that is on tour, on loan, sold or in storage
--It will be useful to keep track of work sold
--It may be useful for insurance purposes
--Galleries are sometimes fairly short-lived, and many galleries are poor record keepers. Do not assume that you will be able to ask them for information in a few years’ time
--The evaluation should provide you with concrete evidence of what works and what does not. It will be a useful reference for every exhibition in the future and help you analyse and use the experience you gained