5 Crucial Things To Do After Your Art Opening

Your art opening is not the end. It’s only the beginning. [Tweet this]
Karin Olah speaking at her art opening.

Karin Olah speaks at her opening. Photo courtesy Alicia Leeke.

It’s common for artists to be bummed after an opening. So much work went into making the art, promoting the event, and installing it. No wonder you’re deflated when you wake up the next morning.

This is when you must soldier on. You have artwork hanging in a public space, and it’s the perfect time to get some things done that couldn’t happen if your art had stayed in the studio.

The fun starts now with these 5 To Dos.

1. Schedule a Photo Shoot

When your work is hung in a beautiful setting, you want pictures!

This is no time for amateur hour. You need fantastic photos to use in your promotions and to document the occasion.

Get photos of:

  • The entire installation
  • Your name on the wall or front window – perhaps from an interesting angle
  • People looking at your art
  • You in front of select pieces
  • Your art in situ – if you have installed it in seating areas or other living/dining spaces
  • You surrounded by your art
Deb Chaney surrounded by her work during an installation of her art.

Deb Chaney had this professional photo taken during an installation of her art. Used with permission of the artist.

2. Write Thank-You and Follow-Up Notes

Use a beautiful note card with an image of your art on the front to write (handwritten) notes of gratitude to people who purchased your art.

Envelopes that have handwriting on them are likely to be opened first and more appreciated by the recipients.

In addition, send emails or notes to anyone who expressed interest in your art. All you have to do is say something like the following:

Thank you so much for talking with me about my art. [refer to something you remember about the conversation]

I’d love for you to return if you have the chance – when nobody else is around and we can talk more in depth. Let me know if you can come by, or if you’d be available to visit my studio.

3. Activate The Space

Nick Cave’s Soundsuits are activated when worn in performance, but that can’t always occur. Sometimes (oftentimes) they are part of major gallery and museum exhibitions. In these instances, they are worn by mannequins that stand atop pedestals rather than by performers.

In other words, they are static. Not at all seen in the way in which they were intended.

Cave tries to think of how they can exude energy when exhibited. He said he asks the question of his exhibits: “How do you keep the space active after the opening?”

What happens after your opening reception? How can you keep the buzz going?

4. Take Advantage of the Opportunity

Reach out with personal invitations to interior designers, curators, collectors, and VIPs that you want to see your show.

If there was a review in the paper, photocopy it and send it via real mail with a personal invitation for a private tour.

5. Visit Often

Your art is more likely to sell if you’re there with it. Make frequent appearances, bringing along guests so you have someone to speak with about the art. This will draw attention to the fact that YOU are the artist.

You should also visit alone and observe (spy on?) other people in the space. What are they attracted to? What are they saying?

When I worked in the museum, we observed people in our galleries. There are countless studies about visitor behavior, which affect how art is installed and interpreted.

You don’t need an official study. Just be there and pay attention.

Your Turn

What do you do after an opening to make the most of your show?

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25 comments to 5 Crucial Things To Do After Your Art Opening

  • Alyson, may I add to your list?:

    1. Shoot video during the event and upload it to your websites and share on social media so those who weren’t there can see what they missed. This video can also be uploaded to websites at local media outlets like TV stations and even newspapers.

    2. Send a photo of the opening to your local newspaper, with a caption. Ditto for your alumni magazine.

    3. Share media (photos, video, audio) from the event in your email newsletter. (Smart artists have an email list of people who they communicate with regularly.)

  • Thanks for more great ideas Alyson!

    The best part is that now we have the opportunity to have this in place AHEAD of time — IF we remember to add it to our Exhibit Checklist!

    Mahalo nui loa,

  • Great article as always!! Many of my paintings are of live events and gigs so once so far at openings I got a band in and painted them live.

    Yeah if you can go and paint there, go for it.

    I am thinking of making playlists on youtube that accompany any bands featured in my exhibition and having a link in the gallery.

    Going to muse on how to keep the space active…a lovely creative challenge indeed!!

    Arty blessings all Merlin

  • Love this article! I take videos throughout the opening and then the next morning, go through all the videos and identify as many people as possible and then send a simple, sweet thank you email. Almost everyone writes back and thanks me for thanking them! Its a great way to keep communication going and people don’t forget that I am appreciative.
    p.s. Alyson, I am very appreciative of all the great advice you share.

  • wow, perfect timing for this article, since my opening is Saturday night! thanks Alyson!

  • Thanks for some great new ideas Alyson. I love your suggestion to send personal invitations to interior designers and curators – never thought of that!

  • Really great. A handful of new ideas I hadn’t heard before– wish I had this list before my last opening! But even better prepared for next time… now just a place to keep track of these ideas so they’re not forgotten 😉

  • Emmy Ezzell

    I would add this: have someone vet the audio portion of a video. Nick Cave’s work is engaging, and his personal charm evident, but if someone pointed out the frequency of “sorta” in his speech, and he excised that verbal tic, he’d sound far more polished.

  • I leveraged the success of my opening and the confidence it gave me to put together 3 exhibit proposals and submit them. That resulted in one definite exhibit, one tentative exhibit, and a “we will keep you in mind and on file”. In the process I also made a list of other locations to scout.

  • I love this article. There so much great information in the article and the comments. I have not had an artist opening yet, but I feel like this information will definitely come in handy in the future.

  • Visiting often is important, especially in a public space if only to make sure make sure artwork is still hanging straight. While I’ve been straightening pictures or just looking them over, people have come up to me and engaged me in a discussion of the art. Very nice!

  • As my recent exhibition and artist opening is at the Denver International Airport now thru April 30 I decided to host an evening reception January 28 5-8 pm.

    I thought of an incentive to thank my VIPs and way to have more people Attend the event.

    When guests arrive they will complete a preprinted art card with their contact info and it states “by completing they will added to my newsletter list”.

    At 7 pm there will be one lucky attendee who when their card is picked from the pile (fish bowl). will receive a beautiful Very limited edition signed and mounted on acrylic ready to hang print of one of my new paintings.
    Of course I will provide food, etc. too

  • Gareth

    This article was also timely for me too. I have a very big show in March and have not thought much about what I will do during the event. So the next step is to write down these wonderful suggestions and put them into action. Thank you very much Alyson.

  • Marsha Bates

    Thank you for these timely suggestions. My Urban Sketchers group is having a show this month in Richland, WA. This is very helpful to have some protocol guidelines.