Many of us have done it, most of us have considered it, some of us have just dreamt about it: mounting a solo show. This is the first in a series of posts about the nuts, bolts, dos, don'ts, lessons learned, opportunities missed, psychological trauma and euphoria of mounting a solo show; the why, where, when, what and how.
There are many reasons an artist chooses to mount a solo show of their work, and many of them are not good reasons. Making money just might be the worst reason. If you are considering a solo show because you're behind on the the utility bill and want to make some quick cash, the process will not be an enjoyable one. You are automatically putting stress on yourself - a stress that will hinder your creative process as you produce work for "quick sale" rather than for the sheer joy and creativity you would normally bring to it.
All artists have learned throughout their careers that predicting what will sell is a near impossibility. Just when you think you have the art buying public figured out (you've sold 6 of those gorgeous seascapes, or 4 in a row of those cubist masterpieces), suddenly you have a studio full of paintings that aren't moving. You'll never figure out why - it could be that you are cranking these paintings out to sell and they aren't your best work, or that the same buyers are visiting your venues and you've saturated that market. More than likely though, it's a mystery.
So deciding to mount a solo show and assuming - or even hoping - that every piece in the show sells, or half, or a third sells - is setting yourself up for possible disappointment. This is where the psychological trauma comes in; setting goals that might not be possible to meet.
Another reason in the "don't doom yourself to disappointment" category is going into a solo show with the goal of obtaining press attention. The "art press" - if there even is such a thing in this online age - is notoriously fickle. Getting press for your show is based less on your talent and more on a writer or blogger filling space, timing, deadlines, your being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right person, and myriad other factors largely out of your control.
So why do it? The success of your show doesn't have to be measured in dollars or press. The number one reason you should mount a solo show is - in a word - passion. You are excited about your current body of work; you want to have all your pieces done around a certain theme shown together to familiarize friends, relations, patrons, contacts - and those who have never seen your work - with what your are currently doing. You want to share your enthusiasm for it. If this is the attitude you go into a solo show with, then you will not feel you have failed, whether you sell pieces or not. This attitude will translate to the work you produce for your show; your excitement and pride in your current body of work will show in the creativity and energy you bring to the work. You'll spend more time at your reception eagerly talking to guests about your process than mentally counting pennies and the stress involved with that. Sales and commissions may well result - but they will be the icing on the cake.
For more information about having a solo show at Gallery Underground, please visit our website: http://www.galleryunderground.org/about/show-opportunities/.
Next in the series: THE WHERE - location, location, location
Sandi Parker is an artist who works in both traditional oils and abstract acrylics. She is the Co-Director of Gallery Underground and has mounted 3 successful solo shows: in 2007, 2010 and 2016.