Many artists envision their work in big beautiful gallery openings. White walls, large, eye-catching artwork on the walls and perhaps an endless flow of champagne and art critics and buyers. Others picture cutting the ribbon on their own gallery – filled with upcoming artists, and bringing your vision to life. But, where do you start? How do you go from dreaming of a gallery to making it a reality?
You’re going to need to think about the rooms you’ll need. Do you want office space? Or are you more content with having a desk in the open. Will you want reception space or not? Finding the space might be one of the hardest parts. You’ll need a realtor that understand what you are trying to achieve, like Prosper Group. You can consider so many different room and space combinations. Your exhibitions are going to be changing every couple of weeks, so it is best you are somewhere with reasonable highway or road access. A gallery that is too dark won’t show off people’s work to their fullest, and that is less than ideal for both you and them. You will want to keep in mind that you want to create a welcoming space, not just for an opening but for passersby too.
Think about parking too. On opening evenings you will want there to enough room for people to drive to your location, or for taxis to wait.
The inside will be a real clincher for how people then approach the art. It will be challenging to take fine art seriously with neon signs and dirty floors. The easiest thing to do is to keep the decor as neutral as possible. White walls are an obvious choice for displaying art well, but fixtures and fittings make the space.
Giving people room to sit down and relax in front of larger more consuming and complicated pieces is a great idea. But the line between too many seats and not enough is very thin indeed. You’ll likely find that the litmus test will be your soft opening. Friends and family aren’t likely to let you go ahead with a grand opening if they feel you haven’t got something quite right.
Stripped back lighting and decor gives a modern naked feel to the space and will allow for pretty much any type of exhibit. Investing in a range of fabrics and faux flowers in a selection of colors will give a lot of options to dress the room when the time comes.
Most galleries will serve a selection of drinks and food, so ensuring you have somewhere that can be used to prepare this is going to be essential. If you are serving foods and alcohol, you’ll need to get the appropriate licenses and hygiene ratings. Ease of access to a kitchen and the main space will be essential too.
If you are already an artist, the chances are you will have a lot of people who will be asking to have their work featured. You should begin to write a list of people and the style of art that they produce, so that when you have an exhibition in mind, or a style that you want to present you can call them in. Your network is going to be what keeps people interested in your gallery and maintaining the gallery stocked with fresh pieces. Having a mix of lesser-known budding artist and established creators will give people new to the circuit a chance to been seen and talked about. The diversity you bring to the space will be as important as the work itself. There are likely some big names that you will want to invite to exhibit and you should be confident in approaching them.
You’re likely going to need to either be great with marketing or know someone who can help out. Either way, you will need a market budget and a person to help you get this ball rolling. Luckily you will likely have all the skills needed to design some killer artwork for your social media posts, flyers and newspaper ads. It is also worth reaching out to any local artsy types of publications and bloggers/vloggers/influencers so that can talk about what is going on.
Call in friends and family for soft launches, and for honest feedback about the feeling of the space. Work with the feedback that you get to make changes that will improve the room for the potential clients.
Colour of Venice – A solo exhibition by Kristine Ballard held at ArtSHINE Gallery in Glebe, Sydney
When you are putting your own work together, you, probably have a very clear idea of what the collection will look like. When it comes to opening a gallery, you’ll need to look at everything with the eyes of a curator. It will be challenging and exciting. Knowing what you don’t want is almost more important than knowing what you do want. With each piece you bring to the gallery you‘ll need to consider if you can sell it, can you do the artist justice, think about the value and the commission too. Can you talk about the piece? Does it speak for itself without needing the support of a whole collection?
You’ll need to know that a piece can fit in with what you currently have and how it works in an event. While you might love a sculpture or a painting, it doesn’t mean that it will be the right move to place it in the gallery.
You can make a note of some exhibitions that you have in mind. A photography show, a modern art display, technology meets art. It is all yours for the taking. As long as what you pick works together and has some cohesion.
When people circulate the space, drifting from one piece to another, it should be a fluid movement that allows for a lot of discussions and pondering over the pieces. Emotive exhibitions sometimes work better with less work and more space.
You should also consider the music that will be played. For each exhibition, you’re going to need to curate the experience note by note. You could work with a DJ or musician to create bespoke music for each show or put your favourite tunes on rotate. It depends on the vibe you want to create.
Over time your idea will become more and more present and eventually you might find you are known for a specific type of works. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. The combination of space, people and vision will help mold what roll your gallery has in the art world.
When it comes to sourcing artwork, you will have your own list of artists to call upon, but you have a lot of room to explore different options. You could attend auctions, art fairs, house closures and more. All of these provide the opportunity to pick up some pieces that you can store, or have as fillers or main exhibits for times when you don’t have people lining up to be exhibited. Attending gallery openings is another excellent way to make sure that your finger is on the pulse when it comes to what is selling and what is in vogue.
If there are specific things that will make you stand out for all the right reasons, then use it. Late night viewings, interactive art installations, budget art days. Perhaps you could position yourself as the go-to for critic, media and artists networking. The art market is dominated by prominent personalities and grand ideas. Standing out won’t be easy, but it will be fun to try. The reason you chose to be an artist and indeed a gallery owner is passion, passion for what you do and the work of others. The art market is a place where you can explore those passions, push the boundaries of creativity and provide a platform for others to do the same. The opinion of the world is that artists are starving, and in part, you can help put paid to that by fuelling the passions of those around you with this venture.
Getting involved in the world of art from a different perspective will give you space to grow and create differently, while also working on your future in the industry. By putting in the groundwork and planning in advance, you first few shows are going to be a great success. Galleries are continually pushing the boundaries, forcing us to reconsider our position on things, providing an outlet for budding artists and a stable environment for those who make a living from their art already. Pushing the boundaries, experimenting with the shape of the room and creating a feast for the eyes and a healthy dose of emotive art too. Remember that there is nothing as powerful as art occupying physical space, rather than just being displayed on a square on a social media site. A gallery is an immersive cultural experience, and every element mentioned above will play a critical role in establishing you and your gallery in that arena.
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