Saturday, July 11, 2009

On the promotion of a show

Tonight's post is again illustrated with he work of Lord Fredrick Leighton, images from, Americas largest online museum, check it out there's a link in my sidebar. It is a great resource and I am grateful to them for making many of the images I use in the blog available.

I will continue tonight with my ongoing series of posts on doing shows in galleries. I will continue to use the bulleted format as it seems to allow me to present the ideas effectively. Theoretically advertising and promoting the show is the responsibility of the dealer, and the expensive stuff, like magazine advertisements should be for them to do. However it is in your interest to work closely with them to make the show a success, and there are a number of ways to do that.
  • I am not comfortable handing my mailing list over to anybody. In fact I am very serious about not revealing the names of my clients. That discretion is part of the ethics of this business. I am a high end "bespoke" manufacturer and I treat my clients with the greatest regard. I am entrusted with their names and addresses. Revealing their identities is a breach of their trust in me. So I won't give a gallery my mailing list, ever.
  • When the gallery makes a card for the show I will ask for a couple of hundred of them to mail to my client list. Now that we are all on the internet I also do e-mail marketing. I use Constant Contact.
  • Usually a card advertising a show includes an announcement of the opening reception. I think it best to send that out so that it arrives about two weeks ahead of the opening. If you send it much earlier, people forget about it. If you send it any closer to the show they may not have time to include your show in their plans, as they may need to hire babysitters or make other arrangements to allow them to attend.
  • I like to think of the card as a present to its recipient. I want them to put it on their refrigerator. That means it has to be an exciting image, professionally printed in color and on quality stock . Modern Postcard does a nice job with that. There are other companies that do fine work too, but I have used Modern and trust them to do good printing and get it to me on time. Oversized cards cost more to print and mail but they are even more likely to make it to the frig.
  • I like a card that is what is called a full bleed. It has no white margin. The image goes all the way to the edge. That is of course only possible with an image of the same proportions as the card. Many of the stock "golden mean" sizes will work though.
  • Allow plenty of time ahead of the show when ordering the cards, things can and do go wrong. I like to get a proof. That sometimes costs a little more, and it adds a little time to the process too. If the gallery is ordering the cards, ask them if you can OK the proof. Do not allow the gallery to crop or digitally manipulate your art! If someone wants to buy the painting shown on it, you want it to look like the card when they come to the gallery. So get that right.
  • I use a computer program to print my mailing list onto labels, but I write in the message by hand "hope to see you there!"I do that with a blue ballpoint and I press down hard enough that it embosses the paper a little. Then there is no doubt that I did it by hand.
  • A gallery should advertise in the local arts magazine, tourists guides etc. If you have reached a certain level they should buy an ad in a major art magazine. They may want to co-op with you on that. You will have to decide if you are willing to do that.
  • Some cards will be returned by the post office as undeliverable, because the recipient has moved. Save those and use them to purge your mailing list.
  • Make a press release and send it to the local newspaper, and handout papers and anyone else you can think of. Print media often like to have free copy. If you include a good picture they may use that too.
  • A good dealer will often get on the phone a day or two before the show and personally invite his best clients to the show. They may even get a special VIP preview.
I will return tomorrow and continue with this subject. I want to talk about the art opening and what you as the artist need to do at that.

Go see Frank Ordaz over at his blog "Being Frank", he has been up in the Sierras and made some nice pochade (pronounced pochade) box paintings there. I believe he has also intimated that we here in the East are art wimps.


armandcabrera said...

What do you think about previews of the show? The gallery posts the complete show on their website and the artist does too. The thought being you want some red dots at the opening. Some galleries want the receptions in the middle of a shows run, some want them on the first weekend it is hung.

Deborah Chapin said...

You could mention that the galleries don't give you their mailing list either. They are supposed to give you the names and addresses of your clients but most of them side step the issue when you ask. I have yet to acquire the names of my clients who've purchased my work through galleries.

Unknown said...


Very informative post as usual. After all these years as an illustrator thr gallery scene is a whole other challenge from what you are saying.One thing is constant...I also use Modern Postcard.

Thanks for the mention and suffering a bit of my attempt at humor.

ps. where's the music? said...

As you may have figured out, I am not a traditionalist by nature. So, I have tried to initiate the idea of a "a Show Ending Reception". My idea being that even with a two week notice, not everyone who wants to see a show can make THE opening reception and meet the artist. An "ending reception" tells people that it is their last date to see (and buy) from that exhibit and hopefully there will be red dots. Also it takes the pressure off of that one big Opening. The ending reception can feature something different, maybe an artist talk. I always have to question the same old things that stop working (like grand sell out openings). I also like the idea of previews for a selected invited group. Good clients should be treated with respect and extra consideration by having first choice.

willek said...

This is just great stuff, Stape, Thanks for getting it out to us.

I had a little business that grew really fast during the 80's. I made handcarved decoys. To sell them, we just advertized in national magazines and mailed them out. We also did a lot of business with galleries and shops. We would just ride into a town with a station wagon filled with birds. Select the best place. Make a cold call and make a sale. At one time we had over 450 retail shops. It was so easy. I thought this would be the same, but it isn't. (See

Upsult= a disgusting insult.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I don't have any problem with previews etc.Whatever you and the dealer can agree to do is good. I sometimes think it is better to keep the show under wraps until the opening though.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Why are they supposed to give you the names of their clients? That is their mailing list. Although I have had galleries that gave me the names of the people who purchased my paintings, they are not bound to do so unless you have a contract with them requiring that. Most galleries consider that proprietary information.I certainly do.

Stapleton Kearns said...

It is certainly a challenge for me. All I want to do is paint.
What do you mean "wheres the music?"

Stapleton Kearns said...

I believe that the idea of a "closing"
makes some sense. However I don't want people to think it is time to lowball me on prices.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I hate ducks.
..............Stape said...

Hi Stapleton,
There is a way to get around people with "low balling" offers. It's to say "No thank you" and then to slightly raise your prices at the next show.