Plan Your Exhibition with a Scale Model

A scale model helps you decide what artwork to include in your upcoming exhibition.

It’s no small feat, but building a model can also help you conquer the unknown and alleviate any anxieties.

Ellen Soffer created a 3-d model of the gallery space for an upcoming exhibition.

Measure the gallery space. It doesn’t have to be exact, but it should be close. Note door openings, wainscoting, windows, columns, and other elements that could intrude upon your installation.

Decide on your scale. One inch=1 foot is probably the most common. If you make larger work, you are more flexible than if you make smaller work. For instance, if you use the 1″=12″ (1″=1′) scale and your work is mostly under 12″ wide, you’re going to have very tiny reproductions that might not be helpful at all. If you make smaller work across the board, you might try 1”=1/2’ for your scale. Whatever you choose, everything for your model will adhere to this scale.

Build your gallery out of cardboard, mat board or foam core. Paint the walls the authentic color. Leave the top open so you can look down in it and move the works around.

Make a scale reproduction – true to color – of each piece of your artwork you hope to install. This may take a bit of doing for non-mathematicians, but you’ll be fine if you have the ratio right. In the example above, the ratio would be 1 to 12 (since there are 12 inches in every foot). So, if you had an artwork that measured 20 inches across, you would divide 20 by 12 to get 1.67″ and that’s how wide your miniature would be.

Add pedestals or special displays if you have three-dimensional work. You might even consider investing some time in making miniature clay models.

Put small pieces of rolled masking tape (or removable adhesive) on the back of each image or under each miniature and start playing curator.

Washington’s National Gallery of Art shows how this is done.

 

 

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6 comments to Plan Your Exhibition with a Scale Model

  • Alyson,
    Thank you for this post! I’ve just been approached by a gallery and they want to do a solo exhibition and immediately thought of you saying that you cannot start too soon…so I’ve been thinking about space, where and how the work would be displayed, space considerations, etc. This is very useful, practical info and definitely gets the wheels turning. I have not completely been through the link that was posted so may have more questions. Thanks again.
    Donna

  • This is so much fun to do! Or maybe I’m an exhibition geek. ;) I actually just do a square drawing of walls or spaces on paper, without the 3D aspect, and then play around with scale versions of the paintings. Even that helps.

  • Building a virtual gallery model in google sketchup seems a lot easier than building a real model in the material world! I can load up digital images of my work very quickly and not only move them around, but change the scale or color easily. This helps me when I am deciding how many pieces to include and what size/shape/color I should be making the rest of the work. As a bonus, gallery managers have been very excited when I show them fly-throughs of how the exhibition will look. I just recently posted a fly-through on my blog http://helenreynolds-imageaday.blogspot.com/2011/03/salt-water-video.html for an example of how this looks.

  • […] shape height, lighting, window spaces. I recently learned that galleries actually create scale models with miniature copies of the art so they can decide before they get all the pictures in! There will […]

  • I’m with Tina – this is one of my favorite parts of preparing for an exhibit. This weekend I will be creating the model for my upcoming show in Philadelphia.

  • I learned about making a model from the “How to Curate and Install Your Art Exhibit Like a Pro”. It was very helpful and grounding not to mention so much fun, I love making miniatures. And it came at a perfect time for “Realms of Wonder” solo exhibit, April 2013. I did a blog post about it 2 weeks before: http://obrienstudio.blogspot.com/2013/03/dollies-get-sneak-peak-of-realms-of.html. Thank you so much for your great ideas…Kathleen