This is an abridged version of ‘How to Get an Exhibition’, a piece written by renowned art critics The White Pube. The full version in its entirety is available as a download in PDF or Word. Disclaimer: the opinions and views expressed in this text are not necessarily shared by Shape Arts.

“A list of dos and don’ts, I’ve written this based on who I see exhibiting and different things that have happened to me and my peers here in the UK. But a disclaimer, I think the current steps to get to be an exhibiting artist are weird and I in no way want to insinuate I approve of them by writing this.

  1. Before anything, be very good at what you do. Make good things. This is something that can’t be fast-tracked or skipped over to get straight to the exhibiting stage.
  2. Be a decent person! Let’s not be adversarial to people who don’t deserve it. Have healthy relationships, be collectively progressive and encouraging. No-one is going to come knocking if no-one knows who you are. You have got to introduce yourself.
  3. Use Instagram: Platform your art, make and keep it visible. Follow and support art people who you want to engage with. Keep tabs on trends and exhibitions. Make your username your actual name so people can find you. Post good quality, clear, well-lit photos of your art. Consistency is key, aim to post every other day. Don’t go overboard and annoy people.
  4. Use Twitter: Do not use Twitter in the same way you use Instagram. Use for commentary, what you think of art, life, politics. Be involved and present, not begging for attention. Follow people you want to listen to as well as people you think would like your art.
  5. Think about what you post: It’s interesting to see how people delineate their personal and professional lives and something to consider. It can feel warm when artists blend real life and ‘art life’ content.
  6. Get a website: You don’t have to pay out for a ‘proper’ website, you can get a Tumblr, Cargo Collective or Newhive account. Feel it out, even put your own domain as the URL.
  7. Make sure you are contactable: Create a plain e-mail address to put at the top of your social media and on your website.
  8. Put on a show with other artists: There has been reliable success in banding together with other artists. Find a space, put on your own show. You can get the first line on your CV, images to distribute online and it’s an opportunity to invite publications to write about your show.
  9. Aim for attainable space: Find a number of people also keen on exhibiting in order to split costs until affordable. Use small shopping arcades, unused spaces it doesn’t have to be an ‘art space’.
  10. Go to things: If an event sounds vaguely interesting and you aren’t doing anything else and it’s free, take a risk and go.
  11. Let people make contact. Facebook is simply another way for business to happen. (I like propositions to be contained in emails so I can properly sit down and reply to them as work), it’s best to open any gates - something good could come through.
  12. Go on ‘art dates’: meet strangers off the internet and get to know them in galleries, cafes and such. It’s always been friend-making to us more than ‘networking’.
  13. Consider submitting to open calls: A rule of thumb would be if you have to pay to submit then it’s probably going to be a bad exhibition, there are exceptions to this rule however. As much as ‘getting your name out there’ can sound like a good thing, you need to be careful you’re not putting yourself in a box. Be selective, you don’t want your only exhibitions experiences to be open calls.
  14. Know when and how to submit to galleries: Do some research. The lower down the rung the gallery, the more open they tend to be when receiving e-mails/proposals. Do not ask to speak to the curator and most artist-led spaces prefer to curate their own shows. Ask around, see if you can find out the workings of a particular gallery before putting yourself forward.
  15. Apply to local competitions: Whilst working hard on your internet visibility, don’t forget your real life visibility. Competitions are a smooth way to enter into spaces you can unlock a whole new audience (and even patrons – imagine that).

These guidelines rely on money, luck, and social energy, mental health, being friendly and, of course, being a good artist. Everyone’s art is valid, and what’s ‘good’ is subjective, but it’s important to recognise that artists whose practice connects and resonates with others, and whose work conveys or articulates something considered of importance and relevance, will always be on the right track.

Originality excites people, and really feeling that an interesting idea is being communicated to you through a work, when combined with an original approach, is irresistible. Mostly what I want to get across is, at the end of the day this is just people talking to other people and deciding whether to include them in things or not. If you are popping up all over the place, you might come to mind when people are having those conversations.

I hope what I’ve outlined above can help you get to where you want to be, but remember that exhibiting should be based on the quality of your art and how much value people find in it, not how popular you are as a person.

Good luck!”

– The White Pube

Explore all of our resources

Shape's resources are designed to bring disabled creatives and cultural organisations closer together, so that creatives gain better access to opportunities and organisations improve their inclusion and diversity. We canvas a range of opinions towards ensuring that excellent art is delivered and supported by a more representative arts sector. Our stance is that the arts sector needs to improve accessibility and inclusion at every level.

This particular resource focuses on the importance of artists influencing people in the art world through effective networking combined with the use of some streetwise tips. This is based on an assessment of mainstream art world expectations, which are often exclusive and elitist.

We recognise and appreciate that many artists we support face barriers to communication and networking, whether in person or online, and welcome suggestions from people with lived experience of these barriers towards the creation of resources which address such issues. We are interested in exploring ways in which networking events can be made more welcoming and inclusive, and also the strategies artists use to connect with and influence others, whether or not they use traditional networking techniques or pathways.

To get in touch, please contact us via [email protected] or call us on 0207 424 7330. We also run accessible artist development events where people can meet with us and others in an art context.

If for whatever reason going to physical events isn’t always an option for you, we also run a Facebook group for disabled people who work in contemporary art (as artists, curators, programmers, teachers, media and beyond), based in any country, which is aimed at facilitating discussion, support, sharing and networking – you can find it here.

Banner Image: Work by David Lock in Shape's Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary: Shortlist 9 exhibition, Artlink Hull, 2017