Whenever you are part of a gallery or museum show the narrative about your art will be created by their curatorial team. If you are producing your own exhibition, however, you will have to tackle this yourself. As an artist, curating your own art is difficult: you are simply not objective so chances are that you will make the wrong choice about which works to include in your show.
But a well-curated exhibition has tremendous value for the purpose of promoting and selling your work. It is beneficial to engage a freelance curator to create a narrative that will draw in collectors and entice them to buy your pieces as well as invite critics to write a favorable review. As you move throughout your career, having your art exhibited and written about will inform your artistic process so when you put your own show together, make sure to put some thought into it. If you decide to take the DIY route, here are some practical pointers.
Firstly, not all your work will be of the same quality. Perhaps you have tried certain techniques and media that did not work out or you created a series that in hindsight was not one of your best. This is actually a normal part of the artist practice: you try different things and if they don’t feel right, you move on to something else. The key error that I see artists make, however, is the assumption that if they themselves were not happy with a particular work, a collector will still gladly pay money for it. Why would they? Don’t jeopardize a potential sale by including your unsuccessful experiments in your exhibition.
Secondly, without context, showcasing a selection of your work that is not held together by an exhibition theme will not make sense to the viewer. Don’t expect collectors to make up their own narrative: art buyers need to be provided with context in order to understand the meaning and importance of your art and to be able to engage with it, emotionally or intellectually. Most importantly, they want to be convinced that spending $10K on your painting is going to be worth their while. Bottom line: make it easy for collectors to understand and engage with your work and for critics to write a glowing review.
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