“For most artists, their first solo exhibition is a milestone to aim for – exhibitions are like credentials or achievements on an artist’ CV.”
I was totally unaware of this fact when I got the email from my photographer friend, Sandra Macheroux, who told me that the Hollandse Club in Singapore is looking for collaborations with Artists and thought that I should apply.
And so I did, thinking “Why Not? Sounds like fun!”.
Little did I realise then – the mountain that was ahead of me.
Step One: Secure a Venue.
Preferably at little or no cost because the host recognises the benefit of having your art on their walls. I like to see it as a win-win.
So, around mid-January 2016, I wrote to the Hollandse Club and heard back pretty quickly from them. They remembered me immediately as “the one with the colourful and happy art” from the pop-up fair that I did at their club a few months back.
“Yes!” I smiled. They asked me to choose a month, February was taken. I chose April – thinking…. two months is plenty of time to get ready.
At least the venue is secured. And its free. What have I got to lose?
Step Two: Define a Concept or Theme for Your Exhibition.
I then quickly realised that given the fact that I take at least three months to complete one painting, exhibiting original paintings was out of the question for me.
I started to panic.
Maybe I should move my timeline to November, or December. OR….. find a concept around using my existing prints. I decided on the latter – other options seemed like chickening out.
Very quickly, I started going to different framing shops in town, asking them how they would frame or present my happy, vibrant artwork.
I was open to ideas, we could make them black and white or Andy Warhol style. To me, the options were limitless.
Unfortunately, most lacked imagination and gave me a box standard answer of using their box standard colourful, acrylic frames to match my colourful art – just like that. Nothing different.
I didn’t want box standard.
I wanted to create something different – something that was OUT OF THE BOX… something that is modern, young and contemporary.
With seven weeks left and feeling sick to the stomach because I just had another disappointing day at the framers, I called a friend to tell her how frustrated and down I felt.
She suggested speaking to Alex from The Frame Society – she thinks that Alex and I will get along really well, apart from the fact that they are the framers for the Affordable Art Fair in Singapore (!).
I emailed Alex at midnight and found myself at their bright and airy gallery shop in Lorong Mambong at 2pm the very next day. Efficient – I like!
Things started to move at light speed since.
Step Three: Create and Execute Your Concept.
Be Mindful to leave enough ‘back up’ time.
Tip: Its always good to have a theme or a collection that is cohesive for your exhibition. That can be through a story that weaves through all the art pieces or a technique or concept.
I loved Alex’s personality the moment I met her. She was chirpy, extremely helpful and customer oriented. She listened to me. Looked at my artwork and immediately knew how we should present it.
She told me to get them professionally printed so that the colours will really stand out and more importantly, last a lifetime.
Agreed. Quality is important.
She also advised me to create a Limited Edition Collection to enhance the value of my Art. Brilliant!
We discussed dimensions, i.e. how big should the prints be? A bigger size would bring out the details better, but it would also be costlier to frame (and thus more expensive sales price). Love it!
We discussed which medium each piece of artwork should be in. She explained that a general rule of thumb is that the original is painted on canvas, the reproduction or the print – should be on paper and vice versa.
I was completely overwhelmed with gratitude by this point.
Create, Test, Execute.
So, head spinning with all that information – I sent the prints off to Brilliant Prints for test printing on their Fine Art paper as well as their canvas. They told me it’ll take a minimum of three days to print. Time was ticking.
Once the test prints were done, I brought them back over to the Frame Society to discuss the framing for each piece of the Artwork.
They looked AMAZING. The colours were so vibrant – it was actually difficult to differentiate between a print and the original painting.
Alex and I agreed that a modern, young, contemporary look is what we want to go for. That meant – framing the artwork in either glossy white or black frame to let the colours stand out.
White would give it a more neutral feel whereas black would give it a an edgier, more mature, pop look. We went for the white because we decided to go for the children/ family room feel.
With one month left – we have a concept. All that was left was the execution. How hard can it be?
Tip: I strongly suggest being extremely realistic with the number of pieces you want to exhibit for your first solo. I initially had 15 pieces in mind and ended up with ten – which was already a stretch to get done.
Step Four: The Marketing
Tip: Organise a photoshoot before the exhibition in order to use the images for your marketing campaign throughout your exhibition period.
One big thing I very soon realised that is extremely about organising an event is the marketing – getting the news about the event OUT THERE to people. It is all well and good you have a great concept and event but its no good if no one turns up.
You need people to turn up.
You need to book dates in people’s diaries far in advance so they can organise themselves. My target market are parents – and parents are very busy people.
Here was where I completely felt out of my depth.
How do I get people to come and look at my art? Why would they want to come?
Apart from sharing about my journey and preparation of the exhibition to my followers on Instagram and Facebook, I created a “Meet the Artist Event” (because everyone likes to meet the Artist).
I hired and arranged a professional photo shoot session just a few days before the exhibition so that I could share the pictures of the art pieces that will be on exhibition throughout the month.
Natasha (Shuttleworth) and I discussed the look and feel I wanted and we set up a Vision board on Pinterest to share our inspirations before the big day of the shoot.
Natasha also taught me a lot about styling (rule of three), lighting and the rules of editorial photography. I was so grateful that I was constantly learning so much in such a short period of time.
Pictures done. Marketing done. Event created. People were coming. What next?
Step Five: Installation
Do not underestimate the effort it takes to install your artwork.
Luckily for me, the Hollandse Club provides their installation service and there were rails already set up all over the bar.
Putting up ten pieces of artwork took approximately three hours. No kidding.
Step Six: The Exhibition
Tip: Something that I wished I did better was on organising some goodie bags or “Thank you” gifts to my guests who came. I ran a lucky draw contest for people who came to the exhibition but goodie bags would have been a much better way of expressing my gratitude to my people.
I think it is important to be clear up front about your goal for the exhibition, i.e. is your goal to sell or to gain publicity?
Mine was more of the latter.
I focused more on publicity and marketing instead of the sales. For me, the exhibition was about raising awareness and spreading the word about what I do.
I am very grateful for the number of friends and their friends that turned up to show their support of my event. I just really wanted to share my Art with people out there and let them see the vividness of the colours (of the prints) themselves.
And those who came were impressed. And I was happy.
The exhibition was a success. I am so grateful.