How to plan an exhibition - nuts and bolts stuff

How to plan an exhibition - nuts and bolts stuff

I am having another art exhibition next month, where Ill be showing my latest artworks to the public. I’ve been exhibiting my work since I was in my early teens with my first solo show at the age of sixteen, so I’ve learnt a lot over the years about how to streamline the process, usually the hard way though so I’m going to help you jump those hurdles and lessen any mistakes in creating your own shows. If you’re new to exhibiting your artwork you may not know where to start so heres a general guide to creating an art exhibition.

The promotion of your exhibition is really important as your visitors will only visit if they are aware of the experience you are offering them.

Advertising and marketing should be started up to a few months in advance of your exhibition and you need to decide on a marketing budget before you do anything else. The costs you will need to consider will include:

  • Gallery or venue Hire Fees
  • The producing of flyers, invitations and posters
  • Advertising space in magazines and/or newspapers (That is the paid for type as some you can get for free!)
  • Mail out costs for invitations
  • Refreshments like wine, nibbles and non alcoholic beverages for the opening function


Advertising and Print

A top priority is producing flyers and a number of posters that you need to distribute to potential customers and places that they might see them. Often you will find that most of your sales will be on the opening night, don’t get discouraged if that doesn’t happen though as sometimes its quite the opposite! I’ve had a couple of shows where nothing sold at the opening but then by the end of the actual show nearly everything went.

Its important to make sure your name is featured prominently on your chosen design as this is what you want people to remember. Depending on your budget and skills you may decide to either design and print them yourself; design yourself and use a print company to produce them, or hire a print company to design and produce for you.


In the weeks before your exhibition, deliver your flyers and posters to your local cafes, information sites, community centres’, libraries and any other venue that people frequent regularly. Also hand flyers out to all your friends and absolutely everyone you meet.

You may also want to consider placing a paid advertisement in your local newspaper/s the week of your exhibition.


Free Event Promotion

Many newspapers allow small free event listings. Contact both the Capital Times and Dominion Post with your request for a free Art Exhibition listing. Art News New Zealand magazine also offer a free event listing at the back of each quarterly edition so apply early at

Even if you are not purchasing advertising space, personally contact your regional and/or local newspapers and lifestyle magazines about your art and the upcoming exhibition requesting they write an article. Try coming up with an interesting angle that may help catch their attention as they get lots of requests to list other people’s shows so you want something that will be different and of interest to their readers.

Does your work have a theme? Think about avenues where your art may prosper.....e.g. if you paint NZ landscapes, find tourist sites or magazines promoting our country who may want to help promote your show. Should your work include classic cars, then you could contact classic car organisations or magazines.

Contact your local radio stations with a press release and ensure you follow up with email and a personal phone call.

Lastly do not overlook the many websites that offer free listings. Check your exhibition is added to online event calendars at least month in advance.


Some reputable sites providing free event listings include:                                                                                                                  


Preparing for Your Opening Night

Make sure all your advertising highlights the opening night. Opening functions are very important and often count for the largest percentage of sales. Catering is a hard one as you often have no idea how many people may turn up. Work on the premise of fifty and 1-2 glasses of wine per person.


Don’t forget to invite absolutely EVERYONE you can think of!

Not only your family and friends but also your doctor, dentist, lawyer, hairdresser, local owners, neighbours’, the kid’s school teachers – the list could be endless.

Invitations can be sent via email, hand delivered flyers, or if your budget allows then also by posted mail.

Carry flyers with you at all times during the weeks prior to the opening so you are always prepared to give invitations to everyone you meet.

Have a visitors’ book for collecting name and email addresses only to build a database for future exhibitions.

Consider recruiting a friend with pizzazz to gather names on the night and encouraging people to fill in your visitors’ book.

After the Exhibition

If you have been able to collate a database of names (A guest book helps for this.), then follow up by thanking everyone for coming to the exhibition and offer further information about your art goals and commissions. If you have website ask if they want to be on your email list for updates.


Creative Communities Funding

Did you know? HCAC provides grants of up to $750 for local arts and cultural projects.

The Creative Communities Scheme is a partnership between the Arts Board and Te Waka Toi of Creative NZ working with local authorities acting as Community Arts Providers.  The purpose of the scheme is to increase access and participation in the arts through the support of local arts activities.

HCAC support and fund arts projects which: 

  • Take place in Hamilton City
  • Increase community interest and participation in the arts
  • Increase the diversity of arts available to the community

Small grants (up to $750) - Available every month

Applications to be submitted by 4.30pm on the 15th of the month


The Creative Communities New Zealand Funding Scheme supports projects which will increase local participation in the

arts or increase the range and diversity of arts available to communities.

We welcome your enquiries about these grants, and are happy to discuss project ideas with you. Applications close at

the end of each month (Jan-Nov), and funding is available within six weeks of applying.

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Posted: Thursday 15 April 2010


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