Writing an Exhibition Proposal

A key part of working with any gallery, cafe, or library to use their space is writing a thesis, proposal, or other document which demonstrates why they should choose your show over all the other artists hoping to use the space. It’s critical that this written work wow them just as much as your images do.

Most of the time, the person reading this enjoys art and has seen a variety of proposals in the past. You need to measure up to the others. You need to prove that you fit in with the gallery’s expectations.

For example, here’s the start of the thesis for Lisie S. Orjuela’s show “Clouds Parting” at the Gallery 263 –

Lisie S. Orjuela offers the invitation to pause and explore the layers of life and art with selections of paintings from two series; Grounding and Winged Buttress. Created by a slow, contemplative layering process, Orjuela dissolves and reveals parts of the human figure as it interacts with the surrounding ground. This organic technique results in both visual abstraction and conceptual depth. Ultimately, the relationship between figure and ground comments on the vast, complicated and intriguing field of our interior territories, with the struggles and contradictions of the soul, the spirit, the psyche, and the mind.

See how she paints images with words? How she demonstrates her solid grasp of the art world and its language? This show won out over many other artists because of the images and description submitted to the gallery. You can learn more about that show and read the full description here –

Clouds Parting at Gallery 263

To take another angle, here’s the description for a show at Worcester Polytechnic Institute on “The Twenty-First Century Body.”

The Twenty-First Century Body collectively explores what it is to be a body and embodied at the dawn of the twenty-first century. As an expression of the contours and contradictions of twenty-first century life, this exhibition strives to hold together a diversity of mediums, subject-matters, artistic technologies, degrees of realism and abstraction, temporalities, and perspectives. Such multiplicities are encouraged by the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961), which provides the theoretical ground for this exhibition. Merleau-Ponty’s aesthetic vision begins in a desire to do justice to lived, embodied experience in all its ambiguity. Our bodies are both objects for others and the locus of our own subjective perceptions, residues of past habits and creative orientations toward the future, radically individual and inescapably intertwined with other bodies and the movements of politics and history. The pieces in the exhibition were selected because they each uniquely incarnate the complex relations between perception, bodily experience, and the work of art that Merleau-Ponty describes. As such, they both speak to the particular tensions and harmonies of life in our own time and gesture to a horizon beyond time and context.

Again, the language is aimed toward a person who enjoys the intricacies of art and how it’s perceived. It’s meant to draw in the educated reader and make them crave immersing themselves in this rich world. Here’s the full details of this show –

The Twenty-First Century Body at WPI

Here’s the start of the description for “Roof,” a sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy at the National Gallery of Art –
The domical form developed in the artist’s oeuvre from his desire to give depth to the hole, or void, a device that has occupied Goldsworthy’s attention since early in his career. His decision to construct a dome with oculus on this site owes much to its northern orientation, which allows for a velvety black hole that no light can penetrate. Additionally, the dome acts as a geometric counterpoint to the angular site and building.

The vivid, powerful words create a strong impression in the reader’s mind. Full details of this sculpture –

Roof at the National Gallery of Art

If you haven’t read descriptions like this before, now’s the time to start! This is what you want to match up against. Go to shows at museums and read their descriptions. Look for shows at great museums around the world – many times they’ll offer information about their shows online that you can read. You can see how their language brings to life the artwork they’re exhibiting.

Curating an Art Show – main page