Scoring Your First Show

8 Sep


How to Score Your Very First Art Show

So you have an bedroom (or apartment!) full of paintings/pieces? So your sister or best friend keep saying you should totally have a show? So your big art dream is showing your work in public and maybe even selling some of it to make room (and dollars!) for future projects.

If you’ve never shown before, getting a show might seem near-impossible. Femme Cartel has helped hundreds of emerging artists get their work onto some of the yummiest art spaces around.

Here are our favorite tips for how you can get a show for yourself:

  1. Consider non-gallery locations like your favorite art bar or local cafe. Of course you likely dream of having your work in a streamlined, gorgeous gallery some day! Take the first step by getting your work out there somewhere you adore, like an art bar, salon, or cool restaurant. This will help you build your resume of shows (tip: post your show history on your badass art website!).  Since most new artists just don’t have their very first show at the SFMOMA or the Whitney Biennial, use these early shows to hone your art show time management skills and learn everything about pricing, hanging, and promoting your work. This is you gearing up to ROCK it seamlessly!
  2. Submit to group shows. Even if a solo show is your dream, many (most!) artists show a piece or two in a group show before having a whole show to themselves. Group shows can be an amazing way to meet more art community and get your foot in the door at galleries that make you swoon.
  3. Ask artists you know how they got their shows; if (and only if) you sense that the vibe is right and good, share your work with them and ask them to introduce you to their contact at the space. (If you don’t know other artists yet, look for artist friends or art community on craigslist, meetup, or via classes at your local art centers and spaces.)
  4. Submit anyways! Even if the show or venue or show seems too prestigious, big, or well-known, submit anyways. Finding hot new artists is very tricky for curators—and most find it refreshing to hear from new/emerging artists with talent! (They usually have to go hunting hard…or rely on people in their circles.)
  5. Create/keep up a solid art web site that showcases only your very best—and most current—pieces. Your web site shouldn’t be an archive of everything you’ve ever done. Use it to highlight just the very best of your talents. If you wouldn’t put a certain piece in a show today, don’t put it on your site. (See additional tips on making an art web site that ROCKS.)
  6. Approach art spaces with gusto. Ask who is in charge of changing up the art in spaces you dig. Ask for an in person introduction or for their email address. Pitch your show to them. By which we mean: if you’re meeting someone in person, flip them through your art web site on a tablet or share quality, printed photographs of your work. If you’re emailing, write a blurb about the kind of show you’ll put up (especially if your web site has more than one kind of art/theme) and attach 2-3 jpgs, plus your art site. To help the person really see your vision, state a name for the show. Commit to doing this a few spaces every week until you get a show. Most artists never hear back from most spaces. Hearing a “yes” is a rare occurrence, so…don’t lose your drive when you inevitably submit to a few without a yes.
  7. Keep it positive! Understand that getting your first show, realistically, takes a lot of work, but keep your vision and optimism front and center. When you shine, your work shines, and this will make folks want to work with you and showcase your work!

And once you get your very first show, check out Femme Cartel’s Tips on being a new artist working with an art space or gallery!


Find these tips useful? Inspiring? See the archive of Femme Cartel tips for emerging artists, sign up for the newsletter so you never miss a tip, and/or SHARE with your emerging artist pals!

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