Delivering Your Art to an Exhibit Venue: What to Expect

One of the most exciting times in a young art career is delivering your art to an exhibition venue for the first time.

You comply with all of the preparation rules, but don’t really know what to expect when you arrive at the venue.

Here’s how this scene should go down.

  1. Someone (someone nice!) is there to greet you and give you instructions for where to place your art.
  2. Art should handled by people who know what they’re doing. Preferably, these people should be wearing white cotton gloves.
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  4. Art shouldn’t be stacked directly on top of other art — whether it’s flat or leaning against the wall. If space is a consideration, art should always be separated by large sheets of cardboard to protect against rubbing or scratching.
  5. Often the floor is the only place to put art. This is fine as long as the floor is clean and protected. We used to place cardboard underneath each piece of art on the floor.
  6. The nice greeter-person should check your art to see that it complies with their installation requirements. They should also look at it to see that all of your information is with the piece and that the piece is in good condition. If anything is banged up or broken, the nice greeter-person (called a “registrar” at museums and places that actually have such titles) should make note of it on a loan form.
  7. That’s right! You need a loan agreement. Never leave your art in anyone’s care without a piece of paper.
Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition

Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, Volunteer Stephen Kovash setting up for the 12x12 Art Show & Sale in 2004. Notice that the floor is covered with plastic and the artwork isn't stacked. Photo by Carl Shortt.

What’s on a Loan Agreement

Whether it’s called a loan agreement, exhibit contract, or anything else, the piece of paper you sign should state your name (check spelling!) as well as the title, dimensions, and value of each piece you’re leaving in someone else’s care.

Your agreement should be clear that you retain ownership and copyright and that the venue agrees to insure the work while they have it in their possession. The art should not leave that venue without your written consent.

You get bonus points if you go to the venue with a photo printout of your art that you can attach to the agreement.

The agreement should be signed by both you and a representative for the venue.

If the Venue Doesn’t Have an Agreement

So, this is the ideal scenario, although I’ve certainly left out a step or two. But what if you get to the drop-off place and no one hands you a piece of paper to sign?

It’s for instances like this that you carry your own loan agreements with you. You’ll need 2 copies: 1 for you and another for the borrower. If you print these out at home, you can add an image of the work to the document.

Check out Harriete Estel Berman’s Exhibition Contract in her thorough Professional Guidelines.

You should also have a copy of Tad Crawford’s Legal Guide for the Visual Artist on your shelf.

Worst Case

If there is no paper, you didn’t bring your own agreement, and you still want to leave your art there, I suggest getting a photo of an official venue representative with your art. I’m not an attorney, so this isn’t legal advice, but at least you’d have evidence that you left the piece in their care.

Just know: Your art is your responsibility. Treat your art as you would like others to.

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7 comments to Delivering Your Art to an Exhibit Venue: What to Expect

  • I wish you could teach this to everyone! I am so tired of getting my work back from exhibits and the plexiglass having big scratches all over it because someone stacked work on top or against each other. I have to replace it always which is costly. I always check to make sure the piece is as perfect as possible before sending it so getting it back scratched is very irritating.

    • CJ: I can’t be everywhere, but you can do some of the work. You can ask questions of the venues and tell them what you expect. Heck, print off this article and take it with you!

      Lots of non-art people put on art exhibitions without any knowledge. We can help educate them.

  • Thanks, I think I was venting after going through all my work and seeing how scratched everything that I just got back was. I will try to educate, its one of my missions. So thank you again.
    CJ Clark

  • BettyPieper

    Good advice. I’ve usually just supplied an inventory sheet and
    sometimes had it initialled. Just a week ago I was looking to
    find a painting titled “Close at Heart” of our daughter and her
    Siamese cat. My husband helped me look…through over 50
    large paintings. Finally I concluded with almost 100% certainty
    that it was taken…from an exhibit I did TEN years ago at a
    college. I checked all my lists from every exhibit since; it
    was not used. Only because I wanted to theme a show around
    children…Peter Pan production locally…did I even look for
    it. Another good piece of advice…besides “Don’t be stupid”…
    is “Take good photos.” At least I have that left.
    Betty Pieper

  • [...] are delivery and pick-up dates? What is the deadline to submit a response? Is that a postmark or received-by [...]

  • Super great information from Alyson…and thank you for mentioning the Professional Guidelines.

    The Professional Guidelines has a Condition Report which I recommend you fill out before delivering your work at the exhibition. Document the condition of your work. Be very fussy, Note every little scratch, dent or mark. The exhibition space or museum will not think you are fussy. They will consider this a professional document.

    Make a copy of the Condition Report for yourself….because sometimes the Condition Report is not returned with the work….(like it should be.)
    Leave the Condition Report with the work.
    When the work is returned it should be checked against the Condition Report.
    If the work travels it should be checked against the Condition Report at every venue.
    Best Regards to everyone.

  • I’m glad I found this article! I just got accepted to my first exhibition in January. I’ve printed your article out for reference, and am about to look through your other articles too.