Preparing for an art exhibition is never easy. Beyond having a body of work ready to display and sell to the public, it takes careful planning, organization and curation.
Since moving to Canada in 2014, Laura Noonan has shown her photography in several exhibitions. And with each show, she learns something new about how to display her work, organize her time or build her network.
It is hard work, but she loves it.
“It never gets old, someone asking, ‘Do you want to show your work?’ It’s a positive feeling,” Noonan says.
Noonan begins preparing herself for any exhibition with a checklist. Creating a checklist of the various tasks required, such as everything that goes into transportation, curation or having the proper contacts is important.
But you must also be prepared for the unexpected because it will happen.
“A checklist is very much at play, but it quickly goes out the window.”
One of the first jobs after getting into a show is knowing the space you have to display your work. If you are able to walk through the exhibition location—or better yet, have been there before—you will know what to expect.
In your booth or your wall, it is important to take into account how you want to display your artwork. The composition of your various pieces requires just as must thought as the creation of art itself.
“It’s so interesting how poorly hung work versus really thoughtful curation, positioning and placement can really inform something,” Noonan says.
How you hang and present your art, Noonan says, can help your message become clear and elevate the value of each individual piece.
It is also important to build relationships with the individuals running the show. From lighting technicians to the marketing team, get to know the names of the people you work with. A little kindness can go a long way to reducing obstacles.
“You’ve got to personable and engage with everyone and get a sense of who everyone is and recognize them and their role. Without them, there’s a huge element of things that wouldn’t be possible.”
In addition, knowing your fellow artists is good practice. They know what you have gone through to get here because they have done it as well.
“When you establish that bond, you can say to another artist, ‘Hey, can you keep an eye on my booth? I’m just going to take lunch or just going to go to the washroom.’ You have someone that will not only keep an eye on your booth but will engage people that might be looking at your work when you’re not there.”
Art exhibitions can be hectic spaces while they are being set up. Be prepared, be civil and be amenable to whatever pops up. Because invariably, something will.
But also appreciate the moment. Having your work on display is a great feeling, and the work you have done to prepare for it should also be enjoyed.
“Just releasing your work and letting it go is a huge element of that whole preparing for a show,” Noonan says. “It comes to a point where the preparation ends, and … that’s what people are seeing.”
by Nathan Durec