TIPS ON HOW TO WRITE AN EXHIBITION PROPOSAL
Follow Application Instructions
If instructions on how to submit an exhibition proposal are given, and this is certainly true of Alternating Current Art Space, make sure you complete it and carefully follow all instructions. For most galleries, they will not consider your application unless you have supplied what they asked for in the form that they asked for it. So spend some time on the finer details before submitting.
Use Plain Language
There are no extra points for academic-sounding art-speak. Use language that’s as simple as you can and still get your message across. Sometimes it might be helpful to write the proposal as if you were writing an email to a non-arty-friend. Keep it simple and ditch the excessive art-speak and be succinct.
Be Specific About What Your Exhibition Will Be
Close your eyes and imagine what it will be like walking into your exhibition, what can you see, what’s on your left, your right, in front, etc? Describe that. How many artworks are there? Are they framed or pinned to the wall? Are there sculptures? How is the room lit?
It’s also a good idea to talk about the features of the gallery specifically. This shows you know the space and you have your exhibition planned out. Maybe you will be using an architectural characteristic of the gallery to play off your work. Describe that too.
Send Beautiful Images
Make sure the images of your work are beautiful!
By beautiful, I mean they need to look as professional as possible. Don’t send grainy, dark shots taken on your smartphone. Consider getting a professional to document your work or at the very least, someone who knows their way around a camera. The finished product should be clear, in focus, lit correctly, etc. Make your work look the very best it can in photograph form.
Make Sure Your Images Aren’t Too Big
If a gallery asks for high-quality images, they don’t mean you should send them 5MB image files. Most proposal checklists ask for images to be sent at a certain size, for example, to not exceed 1MB per file, etc. Be careful to send only what they ask for the size they ask for. Usually ‘high quality’ means everything I’ve said about ‘beautiful’ images above, it doesn’t mean ‘send us a huge file’.
How do I Write a Proposal for an Artwork I Haven’t Made Yet?
Maybe your artwork is an installation or you want to apply with a series of paintings you’re still completing, in this case, describe your intention. As for images, you can apply with images of the work in progress or with other examples of your work. The images you send should give an indication of what the gallery can expect from your exhibition, so if you are proposing paintings, show previous paintings. If photography, show previous photographs. So if you’re applying to show your new series of oil paintings on canvas, don’t send videos of your previous performance works.
- For good advice on writing about art for many different purposes, including artist statements and proposals in How to Write About Contemporary Art by Gilda Williams
- Love this panel discussion video from Seventh Gallery
- Great article on ArtsHub where an industry experts define what pulls an arts proposal over the line.