How to Plan the Ultimate Art Opening Night

Month: September 2017

Ask anyone what they enjoy the best about going to an art show and many folks will tell you it is the opening night celebration. And who can blame them, after all, what better way is there to spend a day enjoying some brand new artwork whilst enjoying some alcohol like a fine yarra valley wine and partying?


So, while from a show-goer’s point of view the opening night celebration looks like a simple process — putting a selection of artworks in a gallery and then placing on refreshments and live music — there is a lot more to staging an exhibition (even a smaller series) than meets the eye. Months, maybe even a year, of planning and organising enter some displays and their opening night celebration, so in the interests of imbuing the curious with an appreciation of this procedure, here it is, a step by step guide to planning and staging an exhibition.


You may be amazed at the amount of planning an exhibition requires. Factors such as venues, budgets, funding, sponsorship, advertising and marketing, organising catering for functions, and maybe insurance, all require careful consideration. Lead times can vary considerably as a result, with a few displays taking a year or longer to install, while others can be organized in a few months.

Budgets, sponsorship, and funding

Staging an exhibition could be costly, and you’ll have to make certain you have enough funding, whether personal, or via sponsorships, to pay the expense of items like catering, advertising, printing, and gallery space. While established artists may have the ability to find sponsors to pay costs, as their bigger following ensures a fair amount of vulnerability due to their backers, new or emerging artists might not be so lucky, and will need to rely on savings or help from family or friends. Check around though. It could be possible to obtain funding through arts grants, and sometimes municipal councils or community groups may provide some help staging a show, whether it be providing a place or publicity. Artists at some exhibitions I’ve been to occasionally ask a for little (gold coin) donation to help cover costs, a part of which they generally donate to charity.

Finding a gallery

Gallery space is aggressive and can be tough to secure, especially in case you would like to exhibit at an established, well known, place. You’ll also have to weigh-up the amount, character, and dimensions, of work to be exhibited, contrary to the availability of appropriate galleries. Other things to consider are whether the gallery has an appropriate liquor licence to serve alcohol from wineries in the yarra valley and whether the gallery functions on a commission basis, taking a commission on works sold, or charges a fixed fee for holding a series. Also, depending upon where you are, since regulations differ from place to place, are insurance issues, both public liability, and paying for things on show. Look out too for alternative venues, like cafes or bookshops for example, which might offer wall area, and would definitely be delighted to collect a commission on any works sold. Given the prospect of custom and publicity, cafe and bookshop owners might possibly be ready to present other types of service for your show also.

Pricing your artworks

This is among the harder steps in the process of organising an art show. The amount you can request an artwork will be contingent on lots of variables including your reputation or standing as an artist. Clearly the more regarded your job, the more you may ask. Another is that the arrangement you have with the gallery displaying your work. Most galleries take a commission on works sold during an exhibition. Although this cut fluctuates, sometimes greatly, rates of approximately 25 to 30 percent are fairly common. Do not be afraid to pay attention to the commission either. If you think you will sell plenty of your job, you might have the ability to haggle a slightly lower rate. To set a price you’ll have to work out how much you want to get, against how much you really believe someone will pay, less the commission asked for by the exhibiting gallery.


As soon as you have financing, a place, and a motif worked out, you should begin organising the printing of promotional brochures and flyers, name cards, and a list or catalogue of the things you’ll be exhibiting. If cash is tight though you might have the ability to decrease some printing costs by doing some of the work yourself. Great looking catalogues and name cards could be produced with a word-processor, using great fonts, some cautious page design, and a reasonable printer. If you know somebody with calligraphy skills determine if they could help out, maybe by creating the name cards.

Promote and advertise

There are quite a few choices when it comes to promoting displays, many of which are cheap, or free. Social networking sites, like Facebook, make it easy for members to create pages for occasions, like an exhibition opening, and issue invitations for their contacts. There is also artwork focused discussion forums, and you may even think about approaching arts bloggers to find out if they will assist the spread of the word. Be careful not to wear your welcome out, or take anything for granted here. Setting up a page on a photo-sharing website, such as Flickr, and posting pictures of your job is also a fantastic way to generate some continuing profile. If your budget permits, consider printing flyers to post on community notice boards. Local stores may also be delighted to display these for you. Also, consider writing a press release to send to neighborhood and community magazines and papers. Finally, invite as many people as possible, as you can, to the opening. Not only will they love a drink and bite, but they will also add some ambience, and make your presence numbers look great. Nothing says success over a well-attended show opening.

Food, drinks, and catering

A big portion of the opening night of any exhibition is that of the food, drink and party atmosphere. Offering your guests a choice between a white and red wine, and water (and juice or soft drinks, in case you really need to push out the boat) is quite okay. If you have a generous host or even just a catering host (find a great café who offers catering in hawthorn and surrounding suburbs here), you might also have the ability to put on beer and some finger food. Wines and prepared meals are the best way to go when hosting an exhibition.

Other entertainment

Lots of the openings I have been to have some type of live music and awarded the air a DJ, or just a band. Obviously, if money, or floor area, dictates otherwise the only option could be background stereo audio. Whatever you do, choose music that’s light and upbeat, and creates a fantastic vibe.

Opening times

Many of the shows I go to usually open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, or Fridays. Thursday seems to be the most typical day, it is not too early in the week, and not too near the weekend. Prevent openings over weekends, or earlier in the week, times that people normally have other plans. An early day opening of about 6 pm is likely an excellent all round time. Most your guests will be on the way home from work by then, yet it’s still early enough for them to fit your display in around other programs they have for later in the day.


You will surely need a photographic record of this opening, so attempt to arrange for someone to take photographs throughout the day. Post the pictures to your Flickr or Facebook pages, and also use them when you write about concerning the opening on your site later.

And enjoy

The opening night, and exhibit itself, will most likely be over in what feels like no time, especially if compared to the weeks of prior preparation, so make certain to take some time out to appreciate your own exhibition.

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