Exhibition Checklist

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Part two of our Exhibition 101 toolkit continues our talk with printmaker and curator Simone Tippett where she takes us through the check list for putting together an exhibition. This time we get the low down on insurance, publicity and working to a timeline.

Read part one here.

Simone Tippett started casual printmaking classes at Union St Studios in 2009.

Should I have insurance?


If you are a Guildhouse Accredited member, you already have insurance. If you are unsure as to what is covered, ask Guildhouse and/or the insurance provider. (You may be able to negotiate a higher level of insurance with the provider, as you need it). Read more about Guildhouse membership here.

The venue should always provide public liability insurance. Ask for confirmation by email and keep a copy.

Determine whether the venue insures the artworks for the duration of the exhibition. If so, does that insurance include installation with reasonable care as well as uninstalling and awaiting collection by the artists or purchasers? Ask for confirmation by email and keep a copy.

Professional gallery spaces usually insure artworks for a period of time that is stated in the gallery/artist contract.

Low budget exhibitions in unexpected spaces, popups or ARIs rarely insure artworks.

If you are organising a group show and there is no insurance on artworks, you should be up front about this with the participating artists. If anyone is uncomfortable with their work being uninsured, they should be given the opportunity to insure it themselves or withdraw from the exhibition. If they are happy to participate in the exhibition uninsured, request email confirmation and keep a copy.

Guildhouse members can contact us to discuss their needs at any time.

Shifting Senses, Rae Forrester and Maria Parmenter. Photograph David Campbell.

Can you give us a good timeline to work to in preparation for an exhibition?

It depends… Professional galleries book their exhibition programme one to two years in advance. A year is a good amount of time to plan and execute an interesting and professional group exhibition. A solo exhibition may take longer, as you will need to make all the work AND organise the exhibition.

If you make artworks regularly and consistently, you may be able to put an exhibition together more quickly.

Likewise you may be able to organise a group show with 1-3 months notice if you have cultivated a circle of peers who are like-minded in their professionalism, approach and interests. If this is the case, tell curators about your ideas. At some point, every venue or curator has an artist cancel at short notice. If you have great ideas, promote yourself carefully, and are agile and professional… You could find yourself with an amazing opportunity at very short notice.

How should I publicise my exhibition?

Social media is your friend. It is free and ubiquitous. If you post in interesting and savvy ways, others will spread the word for you.

If you are a member of Guildhouse, Well Made or any other arts/crafts organisation, remember to promote your event via their platforms. (If you don’t tell them about your exhibition, they can’t promote it.)

If you have a colleague who reviews events and exhibitions on a blog, in the Messenger or via Weekend Notes, give them a one-on-one preview, professional images and a thoughtful blurb, and ask them to review your show. Remember, they must be allowed to write what they want, so it is up to you to make sure they understand and appreciate your work as easily and efficiently as you can. Ask if you can check their draft before it goes to print – purely to ensure the dates, gallery hours and contacts are correct. If they have misunderstood your work, this will give you a valuable opportunity to shed further light – without undue influence, of course!

If you are reviewed positively, link the review to any online platforms you are associated with.

If you want someone to feature you, provide them with professional images and insightful text, in the exactly the format they require… Make it easy for others to promote you.

What is your exhibition preparation check-list?

Go to the NAVA website, click “Guides”, and read all of the documents under “Exhibitions”. If you need to join NAVA to do this, you should. Just like Guildhouse, NAVA is an amazing resource. Join both and read everything.

Chris De Rosa, Florilegia, 2016, installation view Adelaide City Library. Photographer Jonathan VDK.

Any other advice?

Always be professional and easy-to-deal-with.

If you have been provided with correspondence or information, save and re-read it as necessary. Always check the gallery/curator’s website and/or correspondence before asking a question. Chances are, they’ve already given you the information you need.

If you are unsure, ask.

Put yourself in the shoes of the gallery/curator:  think about what they need for the exhibition they are organising and (without changing or compromising your work) tailor your approach to suit them. They are really busy and deal with lots of artists, so make sure they remember you for the right reasons.

If you can, learn from other people’s experiences rather than making unnecessary mistakes yourself… And there is always something new to learn!

Never assume anything. Always document everything. And never say or write anything to or about anyone that you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to their face at a dinner party.

Be honest and sincere, and always kind and generous.

Things have a habit of coming full circle, so it is always best treat others the way you’d like to be, yourself.

Never forget that you do this because you want to, because making things is your way of communicating with the world. Regardless of how you exhibit – or the outcomes – the important thing is to make the work. Fads come and go. It is the making that is important.

Guildhouse financial members are able to obtain one on one professional development support about many areas of their practice. Find out more about membership here.

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