The opening of my new exhibition, Thousand Words of Snow, or in Finnish TUHAT SANAA LUMELLE, is in two days. As I am too tired this evening for any more work, I thought it was a good opportunity to share with artists who have not yet had exhibitions what it is like to prepare for one.
The first thing you should know is that it is a lot of work – much more than you expect, much more than meets the eye. It requires planning and thinking about art and administration, thinking big and thinking small, because you need both concept and details to work together. So, unless you are lucky enough to have someone do most of the work for you (I am not that lucky), you may want to rethink if you really want to do it. You do not have to, after all.
The first thing you need to do is to select a theme and a name. Maybe it is a simple task for you. For me it was not. It was weeks before I could figure out something that was meaningful enough for me and agreeable by the gallery owner.
Based on the theme, you select the work. In my previous two exhibitions, I selected work I had already completed. Together with the gallery owners we would discuss an image after image. In the first exhibition it was a three-month process before we agreed on the final selection.
For this exhibition I had no material, and I had to create it from scratch. Taking photos over weeks for a single theme was a new type of work for me. It also meant that for the first time, I had a deadline. Working for a deadline, is a different experience altogether, especially as my photos were snow dependent and on many of the days the weather was not suitable.
Then comes the work with the printer. If you mostly work with digital media, printing is a new challenge altogether. Selecting the printing machine, the type of paper, the ink, and most importantly the professional who will understand you and support you. A printed photo never looks like on the screen, and for high quality exhibition, every photo needs its own special attention, adjustment, and calibration. For my first exhibition it took over six months before all photos were printed to my satisfaction.
Then comes all the admin work: preparing posters, ads. marketing material, labels, speak with journalists, and more. And of course, one must not forget the price sheet. I still have no idea how to price a piece of art. If your work is different to what the gallery usually displays, they would have no idea either.
This time, as the exhibition will not be in a formal gallery, but rather in a shop’s windows overlooking the main street, I also had to do the physical work and the hanging. It is so easy in a gallery that had the proper setting. If you have to do it from scratch, you’d better have good knowledge of working with lines and strings. I had to figure it out all from scratch. Hanging 30 photos was a full two-day work for two people.
I love every moment of the work. But it is a real job, and it is not easy. So, my suggestion is that before you plan on having your own exhibition, think if you are ready to make the commitment. Because spending your time on creating more or better art might be a more effective way for you.
Here is me cleaning the windows before hanging the photos. (yes, I had to do that, too)
Here I am after two days of work. Nearly ready.
And this is what it looks from the street.
And here is another photo from the exhibition. Lumisade.