Organizing an Art Show. 5 Tips You Need to Know

Dilly Vase by Robin Hardy

Dilly Vase by Robin Hardy

“From Within’ is the first art show of its kind in The Bahamas.  The show featured three woodturners (Robin Hardy, Jeremy Delancy and David McGorran)  who not only highlighted their skills but also the beauty of wood as a medium.   I came up with the idea of having the show in November of 2013 and seeing it to fruition has been  quite the learning process.  For anyone planning an art show, here are some tips that I picked up along the way.

1. Plan Ahead . . . .  Way Ahead

Don’t freak yourself out by trying to do everything at the last minute. Answer these basic questions early on and your life will be easier.

A.  Who are you planning to invite?  I go into more detail on this later in this post.

 B.  Where – Choose your venue.  Take into consideration,location, hours of operation, and management of the space you are intending to use.

C.  When –  Are there other major social events scheduled for the same time as your opening? What time of year?  I know that in The Bahamas almost everyone is broke and tired after the Christmas madness, so I’d try to avoid planning anything for January.


2. The Better Your Connections, The Better Your Show.

So, who are you planning to invite?  It’s quite easy for a budding artist to fall into the trap of only inviting family and friends.  These are the people of the social circle that he/she feels most comfortable with.  The problem of course is that these people can also feel so comfortable that they won’t pay for the art on display.

For this art show I wrote an invitation to known art collectors, had it edited by David and Robin, and then the gallery owner, Pamela Burnside.  Finally we added some pictures of the artwork to the letters and where possible had them hand delivered.  The total time spent on this process was about four hours but it yielded a major sale on the first day of the exhibition.

I did not have a personal connection with any of the art collectors but of course Pamela did.   I’ve often wondered how galleries justified 50 to 100 percent markups on an artist’s work.  Well, now I know.  A good gallery owner knows how to get people with money to look at your art, when they are most likely to come and what they are most likely to buy.  They should be able  to guide you through the process of putting the show together.  Therefore, if you can’t work closely and cordially with the space’s management, find another venue.

3. “The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne” Chaucer

I’ve written before about Productivity.  If you are interested you can read my thoughts here and here.  Now I can add to that knowledge with something I learnt the hard way.

DO NOT TRY TO LEARN A TOTALLY NEW SKILL WITHIN ONE TO THREE MONTHS BEFORE THE SHOW.  I tried this and found that I was breaking and repairing things faster than I was completing them.  Don’t make the same mistake, because:

a.  You will not master the skill in time.

b.   It will show in your work.

c.  You won’t be fully focused on what you’re best at.

Here is a video that explains why serious artists go through ‘periods’ which is directly related to the point I’m trying to make.


4. Volume not Perfection, Speed not Direction

When you do attempt to learn a new skill, don’t assume that each attempt has to be perfect.  If you practice enough, you will be able to critique your own work as you go along.  If instead you try to make only one or two ‘perfect’ items you won’t incorporate the nuances of the skill and you are more likely to quit.  It’s late and I’m tired, watch this video for a better explanation.

5. Attitude

The feeling an artist is most likely to feel after a show is. . . .disappointment.  Disappointment might be too strong a word but there is a let down even after a ‘successful’ show. So, if you were expecting Fame, Money and groupies, Good Times after your first show, don’t hold your breath.  The rule of thumb is, it  takes ten years to become an overnight success. One disappointing show does not make you a failure, and one successful show does not make you a great artist.  In all things, Equanimity. This may be the hardest skill for an artist to master but it will serve you best.


Here are some pictures:


by David McGorran

by David McGorran

Pamela Burnside

Pamela Burnside


Robin Hardy, David McGorran and Jeremy Delancy

Robin Hardy, David McGorran and Jeremy Delancy.  Yes, I am smiling!

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