How To Make A Successful Art Exhibition

Many new artists and fine art photographers have heard of the concept of having an art exhibit and maybe even heard a little bit about the importance of putting on a successful art exhibition, but when you are new in this world it’s hard to figure out what that actually means.  They don’t know “How To Make An Art Exhibition Successful”! I recently had almost an accidental art exhibition that turned out to be wildly successful with people basically throwing money at me and I thought telling you my story might help you along your path to success.

About The Artist

Let me tell you a little bit about my background.  I’m a software engineer and I’ve been in corporate America for over 20 years developing software for some big and small companies.  I have also owned a small marketing firm where we develop websites for smaller clients and then did the work to get their businesses found online. We basically became search engine optimization experts.  In the creative space I’m a fine art photographer with a focus on landscapes, cityscapes and architectural photography.

How To Make A Successful Art Exhibition

Art Fairs Can Be Fun, But They Are a Ton of Work

I wanted to build my photography business mostly online using my online marketing expertise so that I did not have to “schlep my stuff” to all kinds of art shows all summer long.  That seemed like a ton of work and I just not that interested in working that hard.

But I also have a friend in Helsinki Finland, who will remain unnamed but her initials are Pia.  She has been harassing me for years to be doing exhibitions.  I kept rejecting the idea for some unknown reason but she persisted none the less.  She can be so annoying sometimes.  But I think she loves that.

At about the same time, I had a personal friend who was strongly encouraging me to take my fine art photography business to the next level.  What that meant in his mind was, I needed to have business mentors or business coaches in the art industry, I needed to have a real business plan and I needed to get serious about finding and using the correct marketing outlets for my art.  As I started looking around for experts on the art business and reading as much as I could on what it means to be successful in the art business I kept hearing this recurring theme of how important it was to have exhibitions.  So participating in more exhibitions per year became an action item in my business plan.

Why is it Important to Have Your Work in Exhibitions?

One of the main reasons why it’s so important to have your work in exhibitions is because people who like your work want to interact with you, they want to know you, experience you, touch you, feel you and learn everything they can about you. Seriously, this is totally true. Believe it! And at the same time you get a better idea of what moves your audience by actually seeing and experiencing their reaction to your work in person.

So what does it mean to have a successful exhibition?

Simply having your first exhibition automatically makes it successful. You will learn so much from the experience and you will be stretched way outside your comfort zone.  It’s possible you may not sell anything on your first outing.  But if that’s the case you will learn what people don’t like but they’ll also tell you at the same time what they do like.  You will also learn from the other artists that may be involved in the exhibition.  Keep in mind; it’s also possible you’ll sell everything that you brought to the exhibition.  In that case you’ll learn what the proper amount of stock would be to have on hand at an exhibition.  But you will also want to have a way for people to electronically order your art right while they’re there with you.  That way, even if you run out of stock, you will still have very satisfied customers.

How to Find Exhibitions

The easiest way to find possible exhibitions is to get involved with all the local art organizations in your community. There are frequent requests for artists to submit their work for all kinds of different exhibitions. Some of them will be appropriate for your work and some will not be, that doesn’t matter.  You will just start seeing what’s possible and what is available.  Also, start networking with local artists to see what they’re doing and what exhibitions that they are aware of and participating in.

How To Make A Successful Art Exhibition:

My Recent Crazy Successful Exhibition Story

The story starts about 6 months ago when Anna, the director of social activities from “The Kenwood” in Minneapolis contacted me to partake in an exhibition that they have at their residence.  “The Kenwood” is an upscale senior living facility in a very affluent part of Minneapolis.  She found me by going through the list of artists on the non-profit art website  I was listed there because part of my business plan was to get listed in as many are locations as possible throughout the state and frankly throughout the entire country.  Yes, marketing is a very big part of the art business and you need to be as good of a marketer as you are an artist to have success in this world.  So I didn’t really know anything about the particulars of the exhibit but I gladly agreed.

How To Make A Successful Art Exhibition

Image from Recent Wayne Moran Photography Art Exhibition

The particulars for this exhibition were simply that “The Kenwood” has a wonderful gallery space along the wall that leads directly to the dining facility.  With this configuration, all the residents of the facility get to see the work displayed in the gallery multiple times every day for several months. So in this case, they got to see and experience my work up close and personally for an extended period of time.  But then “The Kenwood” did a wonderful “meet the artist” wine and cheese event.

How To Make A Successful Art Exhibition

The Power of Food ~ Meet The Artist Wine and Cheese Event

This event was very informal but it allowed the residents that liked my work and were moved by it to come and actually meet me and I in turn could interact with them.

So remember they were able to see my work, they were moved by my work, then after a week of that experience that’s when we had the wine and cheese event.  I think it is this timing of events that really made it all work.

I didn’t have the speech planned or anything at all, I simply told the story of how I got involved in photography, what moves me in photography, why I capture what I capture and how I shoot for emotion in my work so that I actually move people.  They had so many questions that they wanted to ask and we chatted for probably an hour.  It was such a wonderful question and answer session because they were interested and engaged. But they didn’t just want to ask questions, they wanted to buy.  It felt like they just wanted to throw money at me. I have never had this experience before and frankly it blew me away.

Light Bulb Moment

This experience for me was a major lightbulb moment.  For one thing it brought into clear focus what my mentors and teachers and influences have been telling me why it’s so important to have exhibitions.  Art moves people and people are hungry to be emotionally moved.  Then to personally interact with the people that are able to move them is a very big deal.

How To Make A Successful Art Exhibition

Recent Wayne Moran Photography Art Exhibition

The second huge light bulb moment was the realization of how important it was to have the art in the gallery for a period of time so that the people could interact with it on their own personal time.  Only after they were able to internalize the emotions that the work elicited would it be the best most exciting time to meet the artist at the wine and cheese event.  At this point, only the people who have been moved by the art will come to the wine and cheese event.  They are the people that are truly interested. They are a self-selecting market.  They have seen your work they like your work and they want to interact with you the artist and if that interaction goes well they will most certainly buy.

Yes, I am pretty thick sometimes, but by hitting my head on the wall enough times, I eventually come to the realization of the truth. This experience helped me see personally how important it is to have exhibitions.


So now it may be your turn to make a plan and figure out what the proper type of exhibition is for you.  I hope you are encouraged and I hope you found this article helpful to move you along your path.  If you found it helpful please drop me a note and I love to hear your input.  Also please consider sharing it on your social media outlets to help your fellow artists along their path.

And until next time, get out and capture the adventure!


These images and many more are available for purchase.

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Find the complete online gallery here: Wayne Moran Fine Art Photography

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~ How To Make An Art Exhibition Successful

Written by Wayne Moran - Visit Website