9 Best Tips for Organizing Your Own Art Exhibit

By Randy Pease |

© Luis Zepeda

Besides managing digital accounts for Food & Wine, I spent the better part of a year planning/developing/hanging an art show in my late brother’s honor. The show, titled “Beautiful Beast: The Art and Life of Geoff Pease,” came and went in 36 hours, and it might have been the most exhausting weekend of my life, but it also was a success. Here are nine tips I learned along the way. 

1. Ask favors of everyone, even if you think they’ll say no. 

Before you even begin thinking about hanging art, make sure you’ve assembled a long list of friends/family who could lend a hand. Whether it’s that stoner kid from grade school who bought a screen printer or an aspiring photographer in your office, you’d be surprised at the amount of people who want to get involved, especially if it’s for a great cause.

2. Find a venue that sells beer or snacks.

Make sure it’s in a cool neighborhood with a good amount of foot traffic. There’s a lot of spots that will let you hang artwork for a very low cost, with the understanding that you’ll bring in a bunch of hip people to offset the price in PBR sales. If they have a stand-alone food/drink operation, that’s a definite plus.

3. Conjure your inner accountant; you can’t be too organized. 

Even though you haven’t worked in Excel since you stormed out of that agency job a few years ago, you should keep a detailed list whenever possible. Log all of your inventory, organize the art into certain categories and keep a checklist of all of the favors you need to ask. You’ll spend the hours leading up to the opening like an (artisanal-roasted truffle-butter) chicken with its head cut off, so make sure you lay the groundwork ahead of time.

4. Assemble a virtual street team to get the word out. 

Paper flyers and mailings are definitely a thing of the past. You can begin spreading the word well in advance on social media, but make sure there’s structure and consistency with the info you’re sharing. Share a virtual gallery on Tumblr, post often on Instagram, create a #hashtag and spam your entire Facebook following — you’ll be going viral before you know it.

5. Invite only your good-looking friends. 

While I’m sure your crayon drawings of sea creatures are beautiful in their own right, it always helps to supplement the work with a roomful of attractive people. They’ll wear cool clothes, bring a whole gaggle of other beauties and turn that mural into their own personal step-and-repeat.

6. Sell items at a wide range of prices. 

If the show is for a cause, people are lot more prone to open their wallets because they know they’re doing some good (and it’s a tax write-off). Either way, make sure the art is priced to sell. You should also consider supplementing the original works with prints, T-shirts, programs or any other low-cost take-aways that comes to mind.

7. Consider a raffle or private auction.

Not only is this an effective tactic to move some art, but it’ll also keep people from leaving. Arm a pretty lady with a roll of raffle tickets and there’s nothing you can’t do. Also, a raffle drawing is a great segue into an inspirational speech.

8. Send everyone home with something. 

Going to an art show might be cool on its own, but it’s even cooler when you can take something home to show your friends. Whether it’s a souvenir sticker or a flyer you printed on your ink-jet, no one should leave empty-handed. If you can squeeze a “suggested donation” out of them, that’s an added bonus.

9. Take a lot of pictures.

Because it’ll be over before you know it. And you’ll want to have documentation in case you have to take all of the art down in a hurry when you’ve learned that you were double-booked with a hip-hop show.

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