Curating an Art Show

If you enter art into an existing art show, it’s relatively straightforward. The people running that show tell you how big the art can be, if there’s a theme to match, when to submit, where to drop off, and when to pick up. You simply follow their rules and enjoy the ride.

What if you’d like to curate and manage an art show yourself?

Here’s some tips to get you started!

The first thing you need is a location. There’s a variety of options to choose from. You can check with local art galleries to see if they allow outsiders to come in and run shows. Usually there’s a submission process and perhaps a fee involved. Many libraries provide space for art and have the same kind of vetting process. You can check with local cafes, restaurants, and bars to see if they’re open to the idea.

As you’re reviewing your location options, you should also consider if the type of art you want to present is a good match for that location. A quiet country restaurant might be craving landscapes with barns and covered bridges. If that’s what you create, perfect! If instead you do edgy artwork involving dolls hanging upside-down in trees, the restaurant might not want those images lurking over their diners’ shoulders. But your edgy artwork might be absolutely perfect for a city gallery looking to push boundaries.

Sample Images
Nearly every location will want to see sample images as part of their submission process. Make sure these are as well lit, perfectly cropped, and crisp as possible. You will be judged on the quality level of those samples. Make sure your samples represent the breadth of the work you’ll be showcasing. Also, make sure you follow any size requirements for the images to the letter. If they say an image can be 2mb maximum, don’t send them 200mb images.

Full Image List
Let them know the names, media, and sizes of all art which will be part of the show. That will give them a sense of how well your show will fit in their space.

Artist Resume
The gallery usually wants to know more about you as an artist. If you’re gathering up a group, each artist will want to have that resume. They might call it a “CV” but they nearly always want a short one-page resume per artist. They don’t want each artist’s full life story. They want to get a sense that the artists are worthwhile to showcase in their location. A few locations won’t care about the resumes, but most will, so get it in order.
Writing an Artist Resume

Exhibition Proposal / Curatorial Thesis
This, along with your images, is what is going to make or break you. The images have to have power – but the words have to soar alongside them. You need to convey the meaning and emotion of your images in language which will fire up the recipient’s passions. This is the place to shine. To pull out your artistic vocabulary and stun them with the depth of your understanding. Remember, these people usually eat, drink, and live art. They read art magazines. They go to art exhibits. You need to wow them with how well you fit into their world. There’s an art to writing these proposals.
Writing an Exhibition Proposal

Polish, Polish, Polish
Writing a high quality submission takes a while. Don’t rush it. Work and rework your thesis. Sort through the images to ensure the ones you’ve chosen as your samples represent the full range of art.

Good luck!