So you have an exhibition coming up? That’s great! Have you given some thought to how you’re going to promote it? No? Not so great. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: However wonderful your art is, no one will buy it if they haven’t been exposed to it. And most of the time, that doesn’t happen by accident – you need to put effort in to make it happen.
How much effort depends on where you’re exhibiting – there are some galleries, including Agora Gallery, which provide considerable promotional material and make efforts on your behalf. You must make yourself aware of what is being done by others to promote both the exhibition and your work so that you can plan your own promotional activities.
1) Press releases and artist statements. You’ll need both a press release and an artist statement for yourself, personally, and you may also want a press release for the exhibition – though this may well be provided by the exhibition coordinators. Agora Gallery provides both of these for its artists, but if you’re exhibiting somewhere that doesn’t and you don’t want to write them yourself, check out Everything For Artists.
2) Printed material. Press releases, artist statements, catalogs, posters, exhibition cards, invitations – all of these can be extremely useful in print form before, during and after the exhibition. Beforehand, you can place them in strategic places to advertise the event, during the exhibition you can have them near your work, at the reception desk, and so on, for those who have admired your work and would like to know more, and afterwards, you can use them to show off your work and your experience. Again, Agora provides these, but not all galleries do; you can go to Everything For Artists if you need to arrange them yourself.
3) What makes this show different? Just like with your artwork, you need to know what makes this exhibition special. This is relevant both on a personal level – what is unusual about this for you? Is it your first exhibition in New York? Does the work represent a new departure? – and regarding the exhibition – is it in an interesting location? Is it an annual event? These details can help your show stand out.
4) With this uniqueness in mind, approach relevant organizations who might be interested in it. Let journalists know about your particular twist. Think outside the box and try to come up with connections to specific groups or individuals who would be likely to be especially interested in your exhibition.
5) Work with others. Is it a collective exhibition in a gallery or fair that doesn’t provide promotion? Then you might want to be in touch with other participating artists, so that you can work together to produce a greater effect. You can share the costs of printing materials, and make sure that your promotional efforts don’t overlap so that you cover more ground.
6) Don’t ignore the local scene. It’s true that art lovers will go some distance for an exhibition or art fair, but the obvious population to target is always the one that lives next door. If there’s a local art scene, then that should be a priority, but local businesses, newspapers or magazines, cafés and cultural centers can all be useful places to advertise. Explain the appeal in local terms and they’re more likely to let you put up a poster or leave some exhibition cards.
7) Target people who already love your work. You probably have a list of collectors who’ve purchased your work in the past, a mailing list of those who have expressed interest at some point, friends and family who could all help to spread the word – make use of them! If they love your work, they’ll want to see you succeed. Make sure they know that they could really help, and make sure to thank them when they do.
8) Use social media. Do you have a Facebook page to promote your art? If not, you might want one – and no, it’s not the same as a personal profile. A Twitter feed? Do you participate in art-related discussions on forums or groups? These are great platforms to get the word out, because it’s so easy for people to reshare the information with others. If you don’t spend much time updating your Facebook page, you might want to put more effort in, especially coming up to the show, so that people who see the posts in their newsfeed start getting excited too.
9) Share your excitement. This really is important – with anyone you want to help you in any way, from a journalist, to a café owner, to your cousin, you’ll find they’re more likely to respond if you show them how exciting this opportunity is. It’s infectious; you want them to start to feel that way too.