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How to Decide Where to Exhibit Your Work: A Comprehensive Guide for Artists

How to Decide Where to Exhibit Your Work: An In-Depth Guide for Artists

Choosing where to exhibit your work is one of the most pivotal decisions you'll make in your art career. The venue not only impacts visibility and sales but also shapes the narrative of your artistic journey. Different venues offer unique advantages and challenges, and understanding these nuances is critical. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore a multitude of platforms, ranging from traditional art galleries to unconventional spaces like hospitals and coffee shops, dissecting the pros and cons of each to help you make an informed choice tailored to your career goals and artistic aspirations.

Art Galleries


Art galleries are the holy grail for many artists because they offer a specialized environment designed to showcase art. Galleries usually have a curated approach, showcasing works that align with a specific style or thematic focus. The main advantage is that these platforms attract art enthusiasts, collectors, and critics, offering a level of exposure that is hard to beat. On the flip side, the highly selective nature of galleries can make it challenging to secure a spot. Moreover, galleries often take a significant commission on sales.

Tip: Evaluate Gallery Reputation

Your affiliation with a gallery can either uplift your reputation or do little to boost it. A renowned gallery can be a career-defining platform, while a poorly regarded one may not add much to your portfolio. It's important to research a gallery's reputation and past exhibits, consult with other artists, and possibly visit past shows to make an educated decision.

Pros and Cons to Galleries


Exposure to an audience that's genuinely interested in art.

Professional curation and handling of artworks.

Credibility and career boost through affiliation with respected institutions.


Highly competitive.

Galleries take a significant commission from sales, sometimes up to 50%.

How to Get Started

Initial Research: Start by identifying galleries that align with your art style and medium.

Networking: Attend gallery openings to meet curators, gallery owners, and fellow artists.

Initial Contact: Send a well-crafted email to introduce yourself and request a portfolio review.

Portfolio Review: Prepare a professional portfolio that's aligned with the gallery's aesthetic.

Follow-Up: Post-review, send a thank-you email and inquire about the next steps for potential representation.

Libraries and Community Centers


Libraries and community centers are excellent venues for artists looking to engage with a local audience. These platforms are generally open to a wider range of styles and themes, making them ideal for emerging artists. They offer a unique benefit: the emotional engagement and feedback from a community can be extremely rewarding and offer fresh perspectives. However, these spaces may not attract as many dedicated art buyers or critics, so commercial success can be limited.

Tip: Explore Varied Demographics

Libraries and community centers attract a varied demographic, offering an opportunity for wider community engagement. If your work has an educational or community-focused aspect, these spaces can be particularly impactful. However, given the diversity of the audience, your work might also face scrutiny from varying cultural perspectives, which could be a double-edged sword.

Pros and Cons


Less competition for exhibition space.

Community engagement and potential for educational programs.

No commission fees on artwork sales.


Audience may not be focused on art-buying.

Limited marketing and curation support.

How to Get Started

Site Visit: Take a tour of the space to understand the logistics, lighting, and foot traffic.

Point of Contact: Identify and reach out to the program coordinator or the person in charge of events and exhibitions.

Proposal Submission: Submit a detailed proposal, including what your exhibition would look like and how it might engage the community.

Community Involvement: Consider how you might be involved in community programs, art talks, or workshops in conjunction with your exhibit.

Self-Promotion: Be prepared to handle much of the marketing and promotion yourself; leverage social media and local press.



Exhibiting in hospitals offers artists an opportunity to make a social impact. Art in healthcare settings is shown to improve patient recovery and enhance well-being. These institutions might not be lucrative venues for selling work, but they offer the unique satisfaction of contributing positively to people's lives. One downside is that the thematic content might be restricted to works that promote peace and healing.

Tip: Understand the Curation Process

Hospitals often work with art consultants or have specific curation processes in place. Understanding these processes can help you tailor your proposal and presentation, enhancing your chances of being selected. Also, given the nature of the venue, your art should ideally be calming, uplifting, or inspirational.

Pros and Cons


Art in healthcare settings has been proven to provide emotional and mental relief, making your work purposeful.

Often less competitive to get a spot.

Potential for longer-term exhibitions.


Your work will need to fit within the aesthetic and ethical guidelines of healthcare facilities.

Not a typical venue for art sales.

How to Get Started

Reach out: Contact the hospital's art coordinator or department responsible for facility aesthetics.

Consult Guidelines: Review any restrictions and requirements for artwork in healthcare settings.

Submit Proposal: Craft a tailored proposal showcasing how your work can benefit the facility's environment.

Installation: Be prepared for specific hanging and safety requirements unique to healthcare settings.

Engage: Consider offering workshops or art therapy sessions in collaboration with the hospital.

Coffee Shops and Restaurants


Coffee shops and restaurants often offer a casual, high-traffic setting. These venues attract a broad range of people, many of whom may not typically visit galleries. This can be a good starting point for emerging artists to gain visibility. However, the primary focus of these establishments is not art, so your work may not receive the attention it deserves. Additionally, lighting and placement may not be ideal for showcasing art.

Tip: Ease of Setup

One of the benefits of exhibiting in a coffee shop or restaurant is the relative ease of setting up your exhibit. Most of these businesses are happy to have art adorn their walls and might not have an exhaustive selection process. This offers a good opportunity for artists who are still finding their footing in the professional world. However, the downside might include less control over how your art is displayed.

Pros and Cons


Easier entry-level opportunities for emerging artists.

Frequent foot traffic means your work gets seen by a variety of people.

More relaxed environment for showing your work.


Not a traditional art-buying setting.

Your work needs to align with the establishment's ambiance.

How to Get Started

Visit Establishments: Scout local coffee shops or restaurants where art is displayed.

Speak with the Owner: Initiate a conversation with the owner or manager about potential opportunities.

Presentation: Prepare a portfolio or digital slideshow to present your work.

Installation: Understand that you'll likely need to manage the installation yourself.

Promotion: Use social media and other marketing tools to announce your exhibition to your network.

Interior Design Firms


Collaborating with interior design firms can target a specific, often high-end market. This kind of association offers a different kind of visibility, appealing directly to people looking to purchase art for their homes or offices. However, the artistic freedom may be somewhat limited as you might have to create pieces that align with a specific design vision.

Tip: Long-Term Relationship Building

Building a long-term relationship with an interior design firm could offer consistent opportunities and even result in commissions. This could provide a stable income stream. On the downside, such collaborations may require a level of customization and adaptability that could be constraining for some artists.

Pros and Cons


Direct access to buyers who are specifically looking for artwork to enhance their spaces.

The work often comes through recommendations from a trusted interior designer, which can make the sale more likely.

Opportunity for ongoing relationships and commissions for future projects.


Your art has to fit within the broader design concept for each client.

Commission fees can be substantial, and terms may be less artist-friendly.

Might require a more extensive portfolio of works, as you'll need to align with multiple design aesthetics.

How to Get Started

Research Firms: Look for design firms whose aesthetic resonates with your artwork.

Initial Contact: Send a well-crafted introductory email, including a link to your online portfolio.

Meeting: If they show interest, arrange a meeting to discuss possible collaboration and present your works in more detail.

Contract: Make sure to review and understand all the terms in any agreement, including commissions and how your work will be presented.

Nurture the Relationship: Once your work is accepted, maintain a professional relationship with the firm for potential future opportunities.

Selling for Collectors


Creating art exclusively for collectors can be both rewarding and financially lucrative. The scarcity of your work can increase its value and attract high-profile buyers. This method also allows you to focus on each piece more intensively, potentially resulting in higher quality work. However, this approach can limit your public visibility and can be risky if you haven't already established a strong collector base.

Pros and Cons


High level of control over pricing and negotiations.

Personal connection with the buyer, which can lead to repeat purchases and referrals.

Collectors often understand the value and potential investment upside of artwork, making them willing to pay higher prices.


Requires a strong personal brand and portfolio to attract serious collectors.

You may face pressure to produce work that aligns with a particular collector's taste, which could limit your creative freedom.

May require more intensive networking and marketing efforts to reach and maintain relationships with collectors.

How to Get Started

Build a Portfolio: Serious collectors will want to see a comprehensive portfolio, so make sure yours is up-to-date and professional.

Networking: Attend art shows, gallery openings, and auctions to meet potential collectors.

Social Proof: Leverage existing relationships with galleries or previous buyers to get introductions to potential collectors.

Personal Outreach: Once you identify potential collectors, reach out directly to gauge their interest in your work.

Maintain Relationships: After a sale, keep the lines of communication open for future purchases and referrals. Consider creating a newsletter or private events specifically for your collector base.

Additional Resources for Further Learning

"Show Your Work!" by Austin Kleon

"Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist" by Lisa Congdon

"The Business of Being an Artist" by Daniel Grant

"Taking the Leap: Building a Career as a Visual Artist" by Cay Lang


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