Sharing artwork with the general public is an important step in the process of completing a piece of art. Art never really lives until it has been perceived in the minds of people other than the creator.

The more I put on art events, the more organised I get about it. This is because rather than waiting for someone else to invite me to show with them, I have always been self-motivated to create the things that I want to happen in my life. My exhibiting experience goes back to the early 90’s and since then, I have always sought to invite other artists to show alongside me, a. because I feel a group show is more interesting for the public, b. it takes the emphasis off me and c. people are more likely to buy when you pool your audience (think shopping centres).

how to organise an art exhibition

The Pleasure of Organising Your Own Art Exhibition

I thought I would share this knowledge with you now, though it is by no means complete and I’m sure there is much more for me to learn. Please add your comments below, so we can add to this and make it a useful resource for artists. And seeing as organising does take me away from my art studio, I would appreciate any of you reading this, to invite me along to show my artwork with you when you organise your events!

How To Organise Your Own Art Exhibition

  • Secure a venue with passing trade, for one month.
  • Get confirmation from the venue in writing.
  • Choose a place that is dry and secure, with good access, good lighting and helpful people to work with.
  • Choose a place that has something else to offer visitors, interesting architecture, a nearby attraction, so people can make a bit of an outing of it.
  • Make sure the venue provides it’s own invigilation or has a decent internet signal to keep invigilators happy.
  • Get a notable local cause as a beneficiary of 10% of all sales at the event. It is important to share your audiences and this is a small price to pay.
  • Collect names, email addresses, phone numbers and websites of artists you like, who make you smile, that you want to work with – use Google Drive spreadsheet if it is to be a large group show.
  • Create a filing system on your computer – create the main folder with exhibition name, then create folders for artists, press pack, blogs, event photos.
  • Get printable size images off each artist (1500 pixels), with the file names labeled with artist name and title of art.
  • Get screen size images off each artist, with the file names labeled with artist name and title of art.
  • Get an artist’s statement, biography and portrait off each artist.
  • Make a budget of costs – hospitality, design and printing.
time line for preparing an exhibition

Diagram by Klaus Schumacher

Terms and Conditions for Artists

  • All entry files (regardless of type or media) must be named with the artist’s first name (underscore) last name, followed by the title of the work (i.e. Emma_Plunkett_Untitled.jpg).
  • Artists will hang and secure their own work. Bring someone to help you.
  • Badly presented or badly framed art my be rejected.
  • Artists will abide by the hanging system rules of the venue.
  • Artists will insure their own work or make sure it is covered by house insurance. The venue and or organisers of the exhibition are not responsible for breakages or theft.
  • Images of artists’ work, with no watermarks, will be shown and shared in relation to promoting the event only.
  • Images of artists’ work will be kept on file for future collaborations.
  • Artists will happily accept the design and look of all publicity material and help to distribute it widely.
  • Artists will accept in a good mood about where their artwork is placed.
  • Artists will communicate clearly in advance if their work is a triptych.
  • Artists will be helpful and engage fully in the making of a smooth and enjoyable event.
  • Artists will pay for reprints of all publicity, that contains their name, if they drop out before a show, unless they have a valid reason.
  • Artists will share printing and hospitality costs.
  • Artists to provide a volunteer to help with the serving of hospitality.
  • Artists to sign up for invigilation if required.
  • Artists who are participating in the exhibition agree to be photographed and filmed on the day.
  • 10% of all sales to be donated to a good cause. (In this case

Marketing an Art Exhibition

  • Design a poster in A3, A6 and email size. Add a QR code that links to the blog for further info.
  • Add some reputable logos to the publicity to endorse your event. See if you can get sponsorship to cover printing costs.
  • If your budget allows, get a brochure, featuring the art, designed and printed.
  • Write blog posts – use titled paragraphs, titles that reflect the content of each paragraph, include Google map, the publicity image, photo of venue. Use the artist’s info for content too.
  • Create a Facebook event – design event header 16:9 ratio. Invite friends and share the event. Ask them to let you know if they are coming.
  • Get a press list from a tourist information centre.
  • Write a press release – headed A4 of who, what, where, when and why, then gush about the event.
  • Create a press pack – printable photos of artwork, press release, any logos in vectors, publicity and a cover note. Add any links to websites, blogs, FB pages and events.
  • Upload press pack to dropbox and send out link to press list, one month before the show.
  • Create a mailing list of art lovers
  • Write a newsletter – who, what, where, when and why. Link to any blogs, FB pages and events.
  • Send out the newsletter 2 weeks before the show, asking people to RSVP and to forward it to their art-loving friends.
  • Ask each artist to speak to their friends about the event, put up posters in their area and to hand out the small flyers.
  • Share photos of the set up on social media but only show glimpses of the work, so as to entice people to come along and see the work in real life. Add the FB event page link to each photo description.
  • Put your posters up outside the venue, use a sandwich board.

How To Set Up an Art Exhibition

  • Hang the work at least four days before the opening.
  • Make sure you have a team of 2 people per ladder to do this.
  • Tools: Ladder, spirit level, strong fishing line, wire, snips, scissors, tape measure, hooks (depending on the hanging system) drinks and snacks.
  • Ask permission before drilling holes in walls. (Fill all holes and patch paint after the show.)
  • Curate the show, so the work flows with colour and content. Let each piece breathe.
  • Label each artwork with a card printed with a title, materials, price (or separate sheet for prices) artist name.
  • Set up a small table for business cards, leaflets and a guest book for comments.
  • Set up newsletter sign up and ask people to give us their email addresses and names to find out about subsequent exhibitions.
  • Designate an area for greeting cards.
  • Arrange chairs for viewing artworks, whilst not obscuring any art.
  • Arrange for someone noteworthy to introduce the artists, maybe the mayor, say a few words about the art (prepare something to say).
  • Arrange for a few people to stay late and help clear up afterward.

Music To Enjoy Art To

  • Find musicians or music that will be background only, (vocals demand too much of people’s attention). Choose ambient music that will complement the enjoyment of the art.
  • Set up near a powerpoint.
  • Do not obscure art with equipment or cables.
  • Sound test at least an hour before opening in case they need to replace a cable.


  • Use a large steady table for the bar and canapés.
  • Place the bar where you want most people to be located. They will always be around the bar area, so put it next to the art.
  • Two volunteers to serve.


6 – 12 bottles of half-decent red, 6 bottles of white, a few beers to keep the beer drinkers from legging it, water, juice and two bags of ice.

Simple Canapés

  • Make up two topping spreads (one veg), refrigerate in lidded containers.
  • Garnish – chop up chives and dice red pepper and store each in a sealed container.
  • Buy little toasts.
  • Set up a canapés kitchen somewhere private and nearby.
  • Construct with a clean spoon in each tub.
  • Present on serving dishes with tiny garnishes on top of each one.
  • Bowls with olives, peanuts, crisps.

How To Set Up The Exhibition Bar

  • Set up one hour before doors open.
  • Get a large bucket and fill with a block of ice and some water.
  • Open wine boxes and get white wine and water cooled half hour before serving.
  • Make the table tidy, set out nibbles in bowls, olives in small cups.
  • Make a display of all the selection of drinks that are on offer.
  • Get the red wine open to breathe and poured into a few glasses ready for the first guests.
  • Set up donations box with a sign – people are happy to make a donation for drinks and you can still treat people.

Bar Equipment

  • Donation box and sign.
  • Float for change
  • Tea-towel, sponge, small tub of water to wipe up spillages.
  • Large ice bucket for cooling wine and water, normal ice bucket, bowls for crisps, tin opener, small bowls for olives, cork screw, plastic cups, small plastic cups for wine, napkins, kitchen roll.

Event Photography

  • Find a dedicated photographer, inform them about what is expected, get them to read this short article about art exhibition photography.
  • Prepare artists beforehand that they will be photographed with their art.
  • Group photos will be half hour before doors open.
  • Add a photo gallery to the blog posts of the event.
  • Share photos on social media every day, inviting people to come along after the opening.
  • Fill in the meta details of each photo when uploading to websites for Google searches.

The Opening Night

  • Give each guest the swan treatment – they do not need to witness stressed out artists and things still being prepared.
  • Everyone take responsibility for the show, how the space feels before guests arrive.
  • Make the space clean and comfortable before doors open. Bags and coats, ladders and tools to be put away and chairs set out.
  • Artists to arrive half-hour early unless they have finishing touches to do, then they are to arrive with plenty of time.

Dress smart to make a good impression and enjoy!

Read my blog on how to sell art

If you want to follow me, I’m on all social media platforms as Emma Plunkett Art. I also write an art newsletter about my art – you can get a free downloadable watercolour flamenco dancer when you subscribe!