How to Prepare For an Art Show

Art Shows

Prepare for your art show with these tips
Prepare for your art show with these tips | Source

The affordable art show

Making art is an expensive undertaking for most artists. Whether you pursue art as a hobby or art as a career, keeping your costs down is important.

You've already invested time and money creating your art, and you may have spent thousands going to art school, getting a degree in art, and trying to keep your head above water while you pursued art as your profession (despite all the naysayers who told you making art for a living was not a good idea. Every professional artist has been there).

Now it's time to get ready for your first show. Making your exhibit affordable will help you sustain your passion and your art profession.

So how do you prepare for an art show and make it affordable at the same time?

Fine art exhibition or something else?

One of the first things to consider is how you define your work. Do you consider your art "fine art" or does it fall into the arts and crafts category? Many local festivals offer booth space to artisans who wish to sell their art in these types of venues. Depending on the venue, your cost can vary. The larger the festival the more expensive booth space will be.

Festivals, as a general rule, are better suited for crafts rather than fine art. People don't often go to a festival expecting to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a purchase. If your works are under $250, however, an art show festival may be just the place for you. Traffic is often much higher than in a gallery and the time commitment is usually just a day or two.

For the most part, if you consider yourself a fine artist, you will want to show at galleries, art exhibits, museums, and art shows that cater to higher end work.

Art shows in a gallery, street fair, or festival?

Get tips from professional artists who know how to market their work. There are many great artists but not many that actually know how to sell art.
Get tips from professional artists who know how to market their work. There are many great artists but not many that actually know how to sell art. | Source

Art Gallery Space

Art gallery gallery space is one of the most common ways that many new artists show their work. A gallery can be anything from a dedicated wall in a local business that supports the arts, to a fully dedicated space that only sells art. If you just received your art degree and are ready to start showing your work, you have several options.


Many local art clubs and art guilds hold their own member shows and open juried shows in galleries dedicated to art. That means the traffic coming through is often art patrons who not only enjoy art, but purchase art as well.

While the number of pieces are often limited (usually three pieces), these shows offer the new artist the chance to have their work seen in public while keeping the costs down to a minimum investment.


The gallery space for group art shows varies. Depending on where you live, the space may be very simple with a hometown feel or it could be an upscale sophisticated gallery in a major city. Often the more it cost the sponsoring group to host, the more it will cost the artist to participate.

Look for smaller shows to begin with. The gallery may charge for space or they may take a commission or a combination of both. If you can find one that only charges a commission on art sales, you will only have to pay if something sells. This is probably the best situation for the new artist.

Displays for art shows

Once you know where you will show your art, the next thing to investigate are art displays. Most dedicated galleries already have art displays so this won't be a consideration. If, however, your first art show is at a festival or street fair, you will have to have all your own equipment. This includes display panels for art.

This is one area I recommend that you spend as much as you can afford. There are many cheap art displays available, but they will prove to be a mistake in the long run. You want displays that will hold up to wear and tear.

You also want art displays that won't fall over in the wind. Outdoor art shows are notorious for wind. Imagine your work blowing off into a mud puddle or crashing onto hard asphalt. Buy the best art displays you can afford and your will be happier in the long run.

You will also want to invest in a tent. Again, because street fairs or outdoor art festivals expose your work (and you) to the elements, you want to consider longevity and protection. Tents for outdoor shows can vary in size but a 10x10 is often a good starter size.

Make your art look as fantastic as possible, with the least amount of expense

Fine art photography as well as other forms of fine art will look best when framed in simple, neutral colors such as black and white. This image required no frame and was printed on metal.
Fine art photography as well as other forms of fine art will look best when framed in simple, neutral colors such as black and white. This image required no frame and was printed on metal. | Source

Preparing your artwork for the show

It use to be art was expected to have a mat and a frame. It finished the work. Now days however, it is popular to buy art on unframed canvas, art on metal, hung from hangers, printed on lucite, and host of other alternative methods.

Art mats and frames can add hundreds of dollars to a piece. Check with the gallery where you will display to see if they require more traditional framing or can you present it in a minimalist method.

If you can learn to frame your own work, you can save thousands of dollars throughout your art career. It's a lot of hard work and not easy to make it look professional.

While you may be tempted to buy off the rack frames from retail outlets such as Michaels, the quality of their frames is extremely poor. The finish scratches easily, the glass is fragile, and their mats are poor quality. For a career artist you must protect your reputation as well as save money. Buy the least expensive, best quality frame you can afford.

Prepare your art professionally with a local frame shop the first time around if you can afford it. Choose thin, simple frames with a white or cream mat (never color) if a mat is necessary.

If you went to art school and studied studio art, you learned how to stretch canvasses, and frame professionally. Now is the time for some of that education to pay off as your talents will help you save money.

Always strive to save money but not in any way that will compromise your quality. It will reduce the value of your work, damage your reputation, and diminish your worth.


Promoting your art and preparing your brochures

At this point you may be wondering if you can afford an art show. You have to pay the gallery fees, commissions, prepare your art for the show, and maybe even purchase a list of equipment and supplies.

Imagine for a minute that a person walks up to your space, loves your art, but has to dash off because they are late to an appointment. Do you think they want a piece of scratch paper with your name and number scrawled in pencil? Or do you want a professionally executed brochure, business card, or postcard to hand out?

There are so many printing options today as well as software programs that allow you to just drag and drop images, you can easily prepare art brochures for an affordable cost. Printing can be accomplished right from your own home printer if you purchase quality brochure paper, or business cards and postcards with microperfs.

Even if you can't format your own art brochures, there are many affordable graphic artists who can prepare your art marketing materials for as little as $75.

Once you have the artwork for your marketing material, you will find it will pay for itself with clients who have a way to contact you after the show is over.


Choose professional graphics to promote your art

Art posters promoting your show can be created inexpensively with software programs such as Photoshop Elements or even Word.
Art posters promoting your show can be created inexpensively with software programs such as Photoshop Elements or even Word. | Source

Now you know the basics of art show preparation

While this is no way an exhaustive list, it does cover the basics. These are the items that every artist has to consider at some point when displaying their work. Just a quick recap:

1. Know what kind of art you create.

2. Consider the least expensive places with the greatest return on your investment to show your work.

3. Buy quality equipment for shows. In the long run, quality art displays are the most affordable art displays.

4. Prepare your art in a professional manner with the least expensive methods possible.

5. Create professional marketing materials. If you need help, consider hiring a professional to just make the layout for you.

Have you shown art at an art show?

If you have shown art before, what was the most difficult part of your art show preparation?

  • Getting your art ready.
  • Paying for all the expenses.
  • The physical work it took to get everything ready.
  • Markteing your show.
  • All the above
  • None of the above. I will share my experience in the comments.
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Comments 2 comments

MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

This article make a good reference guide for someone preparing for an art show. Very well done. Voted Up and Useful.


bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 3 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Thanks Ms Dora. It was from all the things I and my artist friends have mainly been challenged with. Thanks for reading!

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