I currently have a piece of work exhibited in the local public library. I think there are few artists who do not want others to see their work, and the exhibition is the most common way of showing yours to the general public. Obviously I’m talking about the real physical sense, we can easily upload a photo to a webpage, social media, etc, but seeing a piece ‘in the flesh’ is always a better way to appreciate art.
Having said that, about three years ago I decided never to exhibit my work again. I was tired of all the work that exhibiting entails and also the expense. Yes, I am aware that I often bring money into this, but when I go shopping, the shopkeeper refuses to give me free food even though I promise to tell everyone how good their shop is. The same goes for the utility companies, petrol station, web host, etc. I need to give them money so it’s important that I don’t spend too much showing my work. Don’t think that I begrudge paying for printing, framing and exhibiting either, I’m just trying to highlight my side of the coin. Anyway, back to the point. The last exhibition that I did cost over €350, and that was only for printing and mounting the photos, no frames were involved. Nor did I have to pay the venue, although they did not pay me for the half dozen sales either and this was one of the reasons I said never again.
One of my first exhibitions was the biggest. Over €850 in printing and framing and more than two days of going back and forth to set up the show. The whole event was really enjoyable, it allowed me to size up, the smallest frames were 1 m², it was great to be able to work in large scale, although more costly. I was also sharing the exhibition with some wonderful artists who have become wonderful friends. This aspect is the most valuable for me, forming part of a cultural network which inspires my creativity.
As I well know to my cost, life has a way of making you eat your words and one year ago I was contacted about submitting a piece to an exhibition on the theme of Las Meninas. Fortunately, I had some work which fitted in well with the subject so I just had to print and frame one piece. The exhibition came and went and then I ended up with another framed print stuck in my office. I did toy with the idea of giving it to one the the models, luckily I didn’t. Towards the end of last year, the same exhibition was considered for the local library. As a result, in January of this year I was able to go and see my work exhibited to an even larger audience. I have long since lost any illusion that I will get work from these exhibitions, or that somehow they will pay for themselves. However, it is nice to be part of something with your friends and which perhaps will cause someone to reconsider the way they look at the world.
Right now I am preparing another exhibition, for next month. If you have read the blog about the photo shoot, then you will have seen the locations and some of the photos. They will be exhibited in the small (but culturally important) village where they were taken. I hope it will provide interest to the villagers and bring them happiness that people care about where they live, more than any kind of personal marketing for me.
I feel it’s sad that it’s so expensive to exhibit our work, which always looks better printed in real life than, for example, backlit on Instagram. So, if there’s an exhibition near you, go and see it. If you like it, tell the artist and the gallery/space. That way, despite them not receiving a financial reward, you will at least be encouraging someone in the art world not to give up.