Writing an Exhibition Proposal / Exhibition Proposal Template

You're an artist. You're not a marketer. You might not even like marketing. But, in most cases, you'll have to learn some marketing skills if you're going to sell your art. For most of us, the world doesn't "discover" us and make us a millionaire overnight. We have to put in effort to get shown in galleries and build a following.

Here's how to write that all-important exhibition proposal, so a gallery considers presenting your work.

The most important thing to remember is a gallery is reading this proposal thinking of themselves. This might sound a little crass, but it's simple human nature. Imagine a gallery reads a proposal and thinks "Wow! Thousands of people will flood us coming to see this, and they'll think we're an amazing gallery for hosting it!" This will make them happy. It will make them pleased to think about having this show. Now imagine the gallery also has a submission along the lines of "nobody likes this art, and it sucks, and won't you be nice to me and run it anyway?" That other submission probably won't win out.

You have to write your piece as a powerful explanation why it's in the gallery's best interest to have this fantastic exhibition within their walls. Avoid the "I, I, I" language. Don't make it about you the artist. Make it about the gallery. Talk about how the gallery will benefit. Talk about how the gallery will have visitors admiring them. The gallery will get commissions from the many sales. The gallery will gain great press from the intriguing items shown.

On of the most critical things you can do before writing your presentation is reviewing every single other show the gallery has put on in the past. These are your raw materials. These are examples of what the gallery loves. Look at those items. See what is in common. Does your gallery favor traditional landscapes? Avant garde sculptures? Moody, emotional pieces? Keep that in mind when you write your submission. Show the gallery how well you fit in with their style.

Remember, your gallery has its flock of fans. The gallery wants those fans to be proud of them. They don't want to have a show where their fans all attend and say "What in the world were you thinking?" complete with eye-rolls and sneers. You want to position yourself as a show that their fans will applaud and be thrilled by. In order to do this, you have to know what they tend to run and what their customer base therefore is expecting.

OK, so on to the Exhibition Proposal Template - this should aim to be one page at most. It should be concise, powerful, and compelling.

Contact information always goes at the top, just like with any business communication. Name, address, phone number, email.

Next comes the title of your exhibition. You might think this is trivial. This is important! This is the branding that is going to accompany everything that is done. That word or words must perfectly resonate with the emotion you want to convey. It's like a movie title. It can make or break your project. Give it intense thought - and make sure it's in line with past shows the gallery has done.

Exhibition Summary. One paragraph at the most. Make this powerful. Evocative. Compelling. This is the movie pitch. Avoid passive sentences. Go for the jugular. Make the reader eager to go see this exhibit. Some call this a "vision statement" for the show.

Exhibition Objectives. One or two paragraphs. This is where you get into the press release material. Why will people come to this show? What will they feel? What will all the press say about it? Which pieces will catch their eye the most? Think like a news reporter. What would you want them to comment on?

Installation notes. Add any details about what you'll need to make this work. Lighting. Power outlets. Pedestals. Be specific and be complete. Galleries hate surprises. They want to know what they're getting into.

That will be be the basic proposal.

Now, separately:

Include a list of 10-12 sample images, and then the images themselves. For each one, provide: Title, Medium, Size (in both inches and cm), and creation date. Make sure every image is as perfect as possible - no flash reflections, perfectly square-on to the image, without any extraneous clutter. Use whatever image format the gallery prefers.

An artist CV should be included separately. This is your resume. It's not an artist's statement. It is your list of credentials.

Some galleries want this, while other's don't. Look at your gallery's submission process to see if this should be included.

Optional. If you're snail-mailing or emailing in a proposal, this could be on top. But if you're using an online form, the cover letter information may be taken in regular form format.

One key - be ABSOLUTELY PERFECT in what you submit. Gallery owners tend to be quite nit-picky about the quality level of what they accept. If your submission is full of typos, or poor grammar, then it's likely to be discarded even if the art is great. If you're not a good writer, find someone who is an enlist their help. This is too important to have fail because you don't know the difference between its and it's.

Polish, polish, polish! Pass it by friends who have done this before. Don't just rely on your mom and dad. Find people in the industry who can provide critical feedback. You only get one shot at this. Make it your very best one.

Assembling an Artist CV
Writing an Artist's Statement

Photography Basics