Looking Into The Future: The Potential Of Your Graduate Exhibition

15 Jul 2010
Despite these recession-hit times people are still buying art work from graduates in the hope of spotting the next William Kentridge.  Your graduate exhibition is the opportunity to present your degree collection and introduce yourself as an artist. It is the launch-pad of your career and a celebration of your achievements to date.

When planning your degree show there are three key factors. Firstly, determine your pricing in advance as this will be a fundamental question asked by anyone who is serious about your work. Secondly, clearly label and identify your work so that potential customers do not have to search through the catalogue for information. And thirdly, be contactable - many students will be taking time out to go on holiday after the rush of their degree show, so make sure your email address and telephone number are available.

Making the transition from being an art student to a professional can feel daunting and isolating after the high of your degree show, so set a goal and start planning another exhibition. Self-promotion does not have to be at huge expense - particularly in this age of digital media where email invitations and websites play a greater role than printed invitation cards or posters.

If you don’t have access to a physical space for your exhibition, there is always the internet. Apart from a variety of online galleries willing to host your work for free or for a minimal fee, many artists host their own websites. And if you can’t afford your own website, then post 6 images and your CV up on Facebook, start a Blog, or use Flickr. It’s vital to join creative communities both on and off-line  as a network will provide you  with the support that is often lost post graduation. Next, build a database of contacts – go back through your emails, your address book, think of everyone you’ve met over the last few years and invite every single one of them to any exhibition you hold.

Send out a monthly update to people, journalists and galleries, with details of your latest work, shows and news. Even if they don’t respond to you they are starting to see your name and you’re creating image recognition – keep it brief, a little bit of text around an image of a piece of your work. Know the value of your work before showing it to anyone that may be interested in buying, representing or talking about it. This is your profession and you should get paid accordingly, but be careful not put an unrealistic price tag on your pieces. Look at what established artists were charging for their work at a similar stage in their careers. When pricing your work take into consideration the time it took you to formulate the concept, the cost of materials, and the time taken to create the piece. Remember that it is a lot easier and far more professional to put your prices up over time, than have to bring them down. Collectors look for consistency in an artist’s pricing, so ensure that yours is consistent if you are selling a piece through more than one outlet. Make comparisons with your peers and other professionals. Go to trade fairs – who is making work similar to yours and what are they charging? This is the most accurate and competitive way to price yourself and your work.

Top Tips
  1. The key ingredients for success are: talent, creativity, individuality, commercial appeal, audience, motivation and business savvy.

  2. Remember that it’s not just about creativity: you need to have a business plan to kick-start your career.

  3. Be prepared to negotiate with buyers: know how much discount you’re prepared to offer and be confident in pricing your work.

We invite all graduate Fine Arts students to apply for representation with us.