Debate: Should Artists Show Work in Doctor’s Offices, Banks and Other Business Locations?

Recently I received an email raising the question of whether it would be worthwhile for an artist to show her work in a doctor’s office. The doctor would display the work for a set time and allow the artist to have a stack of cards or brochures available to potential buyers. If work sold, the doctor wouldn’t take a commission. I suspect many of you have had similar offers, and perhaps you’ve even had experience showing in similar venues. I’ve already written about the promise and pitfalls of showing in coffee houses, restaurants and other alternate venues, and much of what I said in that article there applies equally here, but let me reiterate my thoughts. There are some differences we should consider as well.

Here is the email I received laying out the circumstances of this offer:

A radiologist came into my studio […] and was looking for some work to decorate his office. He said he wanted to change the atmosphere in the lobby and waiting areas in the facility by hanging diverse and interesting art for patients. We discussed how my beetles could be an engaging thing for patients to look at while they wait and he seemed interested and took my card.

Then I received an email from him asking if I would be interested in participating in a small rotating art feature/exhibit at his office.

They want to begin having rotating exhibits with several artists at a time. Artists can provide their bio and postcards and information will be posted to contact the artist if anyone is interested in purchasing a piece. He did not mention any commission, or the schedule by which he would switch out the work. He did say that he was reaching out to several other artists […] as well.

My concern is twofold. First, I am in the process of relocating out of the area, so I would have to find a friend to hang the work for me and then ship it back when my “rotation” was over. Secondly, I am still building my collection and am not sure I should turn over part of it to him to hang in a location that isn’t an active gallery for an unspecified period of time.

I checked out their company and it seems on-the-level. What is your opinion on loaning out work to decorate a space in the hopes that someone notice it and ask about purchase? Should I participate just to get the experience and exposure, or save my money and target more conventional galleries?

If you don’t have time to respond, could you perhaps point me in the direction of some guidance on situations such as this?

Thanks, I appreciate it!



My initial response:

If you are ramping up and getting ready to present your work to galleries, you should be hesitant to commit the work to this venue where the chances of generating business are relatively low. With the work involved in handling the logistics of the display you would probably better spend your time on other marketing efforts. On the other hand, if the work isn’t likely to be in play with a gallery or other sales prospects, some exposure, no matter how unlikely to lead to a sale, is better than no exposure.

Add to the equation the fact that you are moving out of the area, leads me to believe that it is unlikely to be worth the effort for you, especially if you would have to pick up the cost of the shipping.


Linda’s reply:

It’s funny, I’ve heard some interesting opinions from friends and family on the subject. One friend was positively incensed. “They promise ‘exposure’ so they can use your art to decorate their place for free!” she said. But my husband, who spent his career at the National Science Foundation, talked about the artists they used to feature there and the great showcase they provided.

I’ve since responded to the radiologist with a “thanks but no thanks”, but he got right back to me saying he especially liked my bugs. He said this would be ongoing rotating exhibit, hoping he could contact me again, and asked if funding would make a difference.

I’ve been thinking about how to help him set this up so it would be successful, and maybe I would participate sometime in the future. I’d think that some kind of funding–for shipping, set-up expenses, promotion–should be encouraged. And having a plan for how he would promote the shows–on his website, local press, a reception–would encourage other artists. He could also partner with artists organizations and even local schools & universities to get a good variety.

Now that I’ve had a bit more time to think this situation over, I’ve had some additional thoughts. First, I don’t think that there’s is anything dishonest about what the doctor is offering, and he’s certainly not the first to do it. I’m familiar with many businesses, banks, attorney’s offices, hospitals, and doctor’s offices that run programs like this. I’m sure that artwork has sold in some of these venues, though I’m also sure that they are not huge sales generators. No one would be forcing you to participate in it, and as long as they are not promising sales that they can’t deliver, no one is misleading you.

With that out of the way, I want to share what I consider to be the pros and cons of this kind of venue:

The Cons: Reasons These Venues are not Very Likely to Sell Art

  • I would stand by my assertion that this kind of exhibition wouldn’t be at the top of my list of marketing tactics. Speaking as someone who is daily involved in the selling process, I can tell you that without a good salesperson on hand to promote the work, the likelihood of a sale is pretty low. It takes skill to interact with buyers and move them toward a sale. It also often takes follow up to close the sale. It’s unlikely any real salesmanship is going to occur in a lobby.
  • Knowing that the likelihood of a sale is pretty low, I feel your time and effort are better spent looking for venues (like galleries or art shows) where the focus is on sales.
  • When people are visiting a doctor’s office, or any other business, they are there with a specific purpose in mind – buying art is not going to be very high on their priority list.
  • There are real costs and risks involved in participating in this kind of display. There is time involved in delivering and installing the artwork. There is a very real possibility that the artwork might be damaged during transport or while on display. These risks aren’t huge, but they should be considered.
  • As I mentioned in my reply, there is also a cost involved in taking your work off the market, or at least out of your usual sales channels. You have production costs and time now tied up in inventory that isn’t actively being promoted.

The Pros: Possible Benefits of Showing in Alternate Venues

  • Some exposure is better than no exposure. Even though these venues are not necessarily going to be paying you in cash for the artwork, they are offering you exposure. You need to decide if the value of the exposure is worth the costs listed above.
  • Sometimes the clientele of these businesses will match your target audience. If the business draws an affluent and well-educated crowd, you may have a shot at making a sale.
  • You may have a captive audience. Waiting rooms and lobbies are often filled with people who are going to have some time to look at your work. Just keep in mind that you are competing with magazines, mobile phones, and TVs, so you need to find some way to draw attention to your work.

Ideas for Maximizing the Exposure

I’m going to give some suggestions of things you might do to maximize the possibilities of making this kind of showing a success. Please keep in mind that these ideas are somewhat theoretical since I don’t have experience displaying or selling artwork in an office setting. These suggestions are ideas I’ve heard from artists or things I would adapt from my experience selling art through the gallery.

  • Ask the organizer or business owner to host a reception where their best customers could meet you. A bank I’ve worked with hosts openings for artists as part of their rotating exhibitions. This is actually a win-win – the business gets to build better relationships with their customers and you have an opportunity to proactively engage with potential buyers.
  • Post statements about your inspiration and creative process with each piece of art. You might not be able to engage the viewer in person, but you can attempt to engage them with your writing. You should also have your biography available for potential customers to learn more about you. I would also suggest that you post a card that explains how easy it would be to buy the pieces on display. Give step-by-step instructions telling the buyer how to contact you, how you would arrange delivery, what forms of payment you accept and anything else you feel might be helpful. These kinds of instructions get people thinking about buying.
  • Check in on the display regularly to make sure your cards or postcards haven’t run out and that they are easily accessible.

Please Share Your Thoughts and Experiences

Have you shown your work in a rotating exhibit at a business? What was your experience? What suggestions would you give to an artist who is considering participating in an exhibit at a business? What are your thoughts about this kind of show? Please share your input in the comments section below.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. The dentists and surgeons I’ve visited lately display their own paintings in their waiting rooms, which leads me to believe they took seriously the advice to choose a financially dependable career over art.

    1. On the other hand, one of my doctors probably could have made a pretty good career as an artist. Her work is really good. Perhaps when she retires….

  2. Do you think showing art in coffeshops, restaurants, or doctor’s offices could be harmful to an artist’s brand? Even if an artist doesn’t have a current venue, might it still be better to hold out and not show at “desperate” venues, like coffeshops, etc.? An artist can be labeled as cheap and not serious when showing in these types of venues. Plus all the time spent arranging the show (but with an extremely low probability for positive or successful results), would be wasted when time could be spent honing the craft, brand, or marketing (such as attaining the proper representation).

    1. I don’t worry much about this, or at least it shouldn’t be the only factor driving a decision. Most of your future potential buyers or gallery representatives would be unaware that you had shown in such a venue and are unlikely to discover, or, if they do, care too much. If your work is good, it will overcome any such concerns about past venues.

  3. Having displayed my work in a few not art a large popular coffeehouse, the other a lovely space Culinary school. I sold nothing and even my business cards and pamphlets were never picked up. So here is the thing..the offer of exposure seems to me to be a bit of a non starter. Most people coming through are there for other reasons. In the referenced email the radiologist first encountered her bug paintings, loved them but didn’t buy them. Then came up with the plan to showcase several artists in a rotating venue. In Salt Lake City there is a bank across from a popular art gallery that has rotating artist’ venues in their very nice lobby. The one thing they actually do is pay to be a part of the gallery stroll every month so at least the display is on the route and frequented on those evenings by strollers who are also attending the gallery across the street. I am not sure how much is actually sold at this lobby but at least the viewers for one night a month are the art lovers. I think if you are willing to put up smaller lower priced art you might get a sale or two in a coffeehouse or doctor’s lobby. My first thought was the missed sale at the studio event. Perhaps you can offer to sell him a few paintings and if they get a great response then allow a few to be a part of his rotating venue.. Still I get a bad feeling when artists show in non art venues for the exposure. It is a lot of work that could be channeled into an art venue instead.

  4. I noticed one important factor missing from this discussion and that is liability. Most places in my area, including the local arts organization, require the artist to sign a release from liability, so that if a piece is damaged, lost or stolen the artist is totally out of luck.
    There is a medical building in town where the local arts organization has been showing members work for years. I didn’t know until recently that several paintings have been stolen and never recovered. Of course there is only one reception area and the work is displayed on every floor on every available wall space. So it is very easy for someone to walk out with a painting. There has never been any receptions or openings and the only publicity for the shows was what the individual artists did, which was very little.
    I understand that some artists had sales, but I didn’t. Each artist was allowed to exhibit 3 pieces.
    In 2018 I was thrilled when I had the opportunity for a solo exhibit for 3 months at a local Ford dealership. In addition to an abundance of wall space and an audience of people waiting for service on their vehicles, the overall atmosphere was wonderful. The lighting was great, there was pleasant background music, and special, convenient places for marketing materials and displays. I had 75 paintings displayed, ranging in size from 11″ x 14″ to 30″ x 40.”
    And they had an amazing opening reception with a generous buffet and beverages, and flowers in an elegant setting, and they moved all of the vehicles out of the showroom just for the reception! They paid for advertising in the monthly Art Walk brochure and ads and publicized it in their own newsletter.
    I sold 4 paintings and several prints that evening and a retired man, a Veteran, who liked to hang out at the dealership asked if I would sell him one of my paintings on a payment plan, and I agreed but told him he couldn’t remove the painting until it was totally paid, including sales tax.
    He gave me a check for $100.00 and promised me monthly payments. As soon as his check cleared he sent me a message that he was having to “refinance his house” and asked for his deposit back, and I did because I felt bad for him.
    One day, a couple of weeks after the reception, I went to the dealership to check on my cards and brochures and make sure the paintings were hanging straight, etc. When I walked in the general manager congratulated me on the sale of my $350.00 painting. I explained to him that that sale had fallen through. “Well, he came in today and took it off the wall and told me he bought it!” he said.
    I called the man immediately and asked him if he had my painting?
    “Yes, I’m looking at it right now.” he said.
    “Are you planning to pay me for it?”
    “Yes, I’ll mail you a check today.”
    About an hour later I got a text from him “I found another painting I like.” “Did you take it?” “Yes. I’ll send you another check.”
    And later “Your postdated checks are in the mail.”
    I went back to the dealership and instructed the general manager and every sales and service person that no one was allowed to remove any of my paintings, even if they had a receipt, unless I was there in person.
    A couple of days later I got a call from one of the sales people. The man had found another painting he wanted.
    “I’ll be right there. Don’t let him leave!”
    When I walked in, the 30″ x 40″ painting was not hanging in its place. I asked him where it was.
    “It’s already in my car.” He said.
    I told him that I like to have a photo of the person with the paintings I sell. Could he please bring it back in. He did.
    I took photos of him and his new fiance’ that he met a couple of weeks earlier and who had just bought him a car he had been looking at for months. She wrote a check for $750.00. I reminded him that there was sales tax. He reminded me that I should absorb the tax because I should be happy to have a sale.
    Both of his checks bounced. Hers cleared. I asked him to pay me in cash, in full, plus the sales tax he owed, or I would have to report his theft and dishonored checks. He said he would keep the paintings and send me a payment when he felt like it and I should be happy that my paintings are sold. He told me that “no lawyer or police will honor your legal request.”
    I filed a police report, including photos, screen shots of text message, and copies of the bounced checks.
    Unfortunately he was right. The “Victim Advocate” at the State Attorney’s Office told me not to have contact with him because he was licensed to carry and there was an incident in which he was “brandishing a firearm.”
    She also told me not to post anything about it on social media because “it might hurt my case.”
    He was never arrested. The theft happened in October, 2018. In January, 2021 I received a letter from the State Attorney’s Office, notifying me that they were dropping the case because the suspect died.
    I sent a message to his wife, (Yes, she married him) asking her to return the stolen paintings. She returned one of them, through a local attorney, but the other was taken to New York by his daughter after his death.
    I know this is long, but I believe it is important for artists to be aware of the possibilities of loss of their work.
    I have read your books and consider “Starving to Successful” an absolute essential for any artist who wants to devote herself to being a full time successful artist. I still refer to it often I have been using Artsala for years to track my work and host for my website – nothing else even comes close to the Artsala platform. Obviously I follow the Red Dot Blog.
    Thank you for all you do and for being the most important advocate for artists ever!

  5. I don’t think this radiologist understands just how much work is involved in running what is essentially an art gallery out of his lobby. Even with the best of intentions, I predict he’ll be quickly overwhelmed. Your reader mentioned “help(ing) him set this up”, but I’d fear that that would become a volunteer job that would soon take over all her time. A local hospital hosts an art show in their lobby, and they quickly had to hire a full-time employee to run it.

    I don’t agree that some exposure is better than no exposure. Context is so important, and exposure only has value when people are in an art-buying frame of mind. And I doubt patients coming in for an X-ray are in much of a mood to buy a painting!

    1. This thread reminds me of an instance when my local art club had our weekend show rained out. We moved to a local Toyota dealership and had a fairly decent show considering it was a spur of the moment change. Months later, one of my friends in the club mentioned that someone from the dealership had called her and asked if she could get all those people to bring their artwork out again. Apparently, he had the impression she could produce an instant art show just by making a few brief phone calls.

  6. Once upon a time I had a restaurant ask me to hang artwork where their customers ate. Knowing we didn’t live in an art town, I asked if I could hang giclée prints of my work which would offer a more affordable price point of my work matted and framed. They loved the idea. I never thought to ask what was or wasn’t covered if something happened to my pieces. I learned the hard way when the restaurant burned to the ground eight months later. They didn’t rebuild the restaurant so my guess is they were underinsured or possibly not insured for things like fire. The moral to my story is if you decide to hang in someone’s space, ask up front what happens in the case of damage or loss while in their care and keeping. I did never sell a thing in the restaurant. I wasn’t reimbursed for the total loss of my prints in their fire. I have since been asked to put art in places like real estate offices, other restaurants, etc. I now decline these “opportunities” because they aren’t real opportunities for artists.

  7. I think the first problem in the discussion here is that it only focuses on whether you make art to just make money… show it only to sell..that’s fine but it is not everyone’s case. Also such an offer is first and foremost a compliment to your work.. the doctor likes it and believes his clients would enjoy it. Unless you’re so blasé by compliments let’s start with acknowledging that. Finally , if you’re not an artist who just shows in galleries with a professional art career, then try things out. It may or may not bring sales, but your work is seen. Years back when I was still struggling as an artist I got offered to exhibit my work in a nice sushi restaurant. 26
    Paintings. 19 sold within 6month and the restaurant ended up buying the rest, and the the owners bought several dozens more over the years for restaurants they have all over the country. It allowed me to have the funds to invest in my career development and now I only show in galleries ( just took down an exhibit in Vienna 3 days ago). You have to be careful with any opportunity, but you have to also avoid being cynical about everything, and be willing to try things out. Any feedback is good, and that means that if you have no sales and no one even picks up a business card in an alternate venue … that’s feedback. Good luck.

    1. Hi Marceau,
      Being cynical never helped anyone. Agreed.
      Looks like you had great experience with your elegant sushi restaurant, very happy for you. Luck also must have a little role in that endeavor.
      I like and appreciate your work. Also I enjoyed reading your comments until the last sentence. What did you mean by that ‘feedback’ really?
      It was a bit too harsh.

      1. I agree. I have sold paintings from my studio and art venues but never from a non art venue. If the feedback of no one at a coffee house or restaurant took my cards or bought my paintings was feedback…that feedback was that it was the wrong venue for an artist. I hear of some people having wild success of selling their paintings from a non art venue..but I do not think this is the norm.. IMHO

  8. My art group has shown for years in restaurants, nightclubs, City Hall, The Federal Building, empty store fronts and a few doctor’s offices. This has resulted in a few sales, one of my students actually just sold two paintings from a doctor’s office where she had been hanging for years. And I have life-long collectors who became friends while installing an exhibit at a restaurant. On the other hand, you are taking a chance regarding fire or theft, and I even had a restaurant go out of business and lock up my paintings inside. Fortunately, with good timing I was able to recover them. It’s a crap-shoot.

  9. I have had offers to hang my work in coffee shops, restaurants and even a plumbing supply store that had a deli and a space for art, more crafts than art. Many people, some well intentioned, make the “exposure” offer. I have always considered these offers to be made by people who are too cheap to buy art for their walls. As far as a customer buying a piece off of the walls, well, I think it is usually a loss of time, effort and money. I live in the country now and paint the things around me. There seems to be little or no appreciation of the arts. I will say I think galleries solve a lot of problems for artists. Sorry for the ramble.

  10. I fell into the “free decorating” thing for a restaurant once. I had large paintings and business cards beside them with the prices. I noticed in the restaurant’s newspaper ads they never said anything about being an art venue or having art for sale (in fact, out of all the restaurants I’ve seen that carried art for sale, only one advertised itself as a restaurant AND a gallery). I doubt their customers even realized the paintings were for sale.

    Eventually, I retrieved my paintings and discovered one of them was missing. I didn’t take pictures of the setup to show it was there on their walls, but I remember the painting had been replaced with a framed mirror. The receipt they signed showed this piece was included in the group of paintings.

    I took ’em to Small Claims Court, won but never got a cent out of them. In fact, the restaurant owners also had some criminal charges brought against them in an unrelated matter.

    I lost the painting, and court and process server costs, and no sales. So I say — never again. NEVER AGAIN!!

  11. oh dear, what a topic. I agree that it is best not to be cynical, but also to be wise and patient. It seems it is a good thing to have your work on display, so long as you, the artist, can keep an eye on it and have little to no expectations… Rather think that you are allowing and sharing your art with others to enjoy and ponder. Non-art venues are often not protected, so that is a significant fact to consider. Always saying either “yes” and always saying “no” may be equally detrimental. It’s probably safer to say, that if you are between shows, or not yet in a gallery, but seeking representation, and the offer to have your work in an environment which you trust comes along AND you feel certain that those who visit or work regularly in that environment are respectful, then participating in such an arrangement can be a great learning process or alternatively, it can engender good relations between yourself and your community. Consider it a community service, put consider the risks too.

  12. I think if I were in this artist’s situation I would offer to rent my work out only. I think if it’s a bank, doctor’s office, law, or corporate office they should be able to afford to rent art for their space (or buy it). I would rather have this type of business rent my work than showing there for the illusive possibility of a sale.

  13. Another idea is to show artwork during a grand opening of a new business. The owners will put more effort into marketing. Artist should treat it like a one day pop up. If you’d like to leave affordable canvas prints afterwards, that is fine but I wouldn’t leave high quality originals.

  14. I take the time when I go to a doctor or professional to look at the art on the walls if I can.
    “If I can” means that someone is not sitting in a seat below the painting. I’ve never seen anyone actively looking at the art work.
    I think there’s an issue of “expectation” at work which is other than a marketing opportunity.
    We expect to see something visual in a professional’s space but not necessarily anything that has lasting visual significance. It is akin to “background music”.
    There are exceptions and for those artists, that is good news.

    A long time ago I was asked to show my work at my local bank. I jumped at the chance. I had “standard size” etchings and engravings. 12″ x 16″ mostly and one that was larger. They hung on the wall behind the teller cages about 12′ away from the customers. It was a huge mistake all the way around. Had my work been paintings of a larger size there might have been hope. (Incidentally- at a juried invitational the year before, two of the pieces including the larger one were both acquired as purchase prizes by a large banking institution that bought annually).

    For what it’s worth.

  15. Hello Jason, Im a student of one of your online courses from years back. I live in Canada and visited Xanadu in person in September while on a trip to Arizona. A beautiful gallery and you have amazing staff. They provided a welcoming and inclusive feel when I walked in and I must say were far more engaging and pleasant compared to some of the Vancouver galleries I have walked into. You have a wonderful array of different art and I really could have stayed longer!! Sorry I missed saying hello to you! On topic, I must say I have sold all of my large paintings in a cafe style setting. The right person at the right time came in and bought spontaneously. I can only say that as an emerging artist (not sure how long one stays in that category) but I’m happy to try almost all things as long as it doesn’t impact me financially. I had rather my work on someone’s walls than in my home. My nephews work at a grocery store and keep asking for more of my art. I have to rethink that as my pieces I did hang in their store where not hung in very safe places and one had a shelf of food moved in front of it. Not into doing a repeat but I am glad I tried. I do not want to have such an ego that I think the only place for my work is a gallery and I do have a difficult time with Vancouver high pricing as it keeps more artists locked away with their art than out and selling successfully. I am currently making smaller more affordable pieces as there is a bit of snootiness and elitism in the art world that I didn’t sign up for. So many of us want to believe our work is so great and so unique but once you get out into the world and start viewing art one sees the multitude of AMAZING and GIFTED artists. I paint because I cannot not paint now! I love art and have made my side hustle teaching children and adults with disabilities to paint. Create the life you want!

    1. I appreciate this healthy and positive perspective Caroline! I also agree that ego and elitism should not get in the way of the joy for art creation and sharing the work.

  16. I suppose I’m naive, but I’ve not ever worried about putting my works in anywhere for people to see and enjoy. Never had anything stolen or damaged in those spots (damage was common in gallery stores instead). Yes, I’d love to make sales, and no, not one of these ever generated more than one or two, BUT, I had tons of people pass by and there were many favorable comments (according to folks who worked in the venues), so I believe that raising the awareness of my art, and what it is, was worth it. I’ve put my works in banks, hospitals, coffee shops and stores. If I’ve not got any shows at the time, then in my opinion, it’s better than them sitting in containers on my porch.
    The last venue I was at, they told me another artist used Square to set up something like an online store and it generated QR codes for each art piece. They had sales because customers could easily scan, then pay for the pieces. They would show the digital receipt to the owner and could walk out with the artwork. I tried to get myself set up like that, but ran into technical difficulties. Still, I thought it was a cool way to do sales and will try again in the future.

  17. Some years in the past I had a large piece (4′ x 4′) placed in the city government building here in Chico. It was behind the front desk. Everyone would have seen it but no one would have be selling the piece. It was office decoration. A bit of an ego trip and a line in a CV. I would not do it again.

  18. I have had both positive and negative experiences. One local coffee shop sold a lot of prints and a few originals directly and always saved the money for me. Then they sold the shop and the new owner simply asked me to come get my art as they had different plans. I was sorry to lose the venue but at least they were honest about it!
    I was also asked to put some art in a local hospital for “exposure”. Never saw it again, and no idea what happened to it as they grew and remodeled without contacting me. The same thing happened with a bookstore that somehow lost everything and had no records at all, in spite of having recorded the art as it came in.

  19. So many interesting comments – as well as widely diverging views – and experiences!
    While some of my photography appears regularly in juried gallery shows, I have also, over several years, displayed in restaurants and other non-gallery settings.
    If I can draw any commonalities of experience in sales, it would be this:
    If an emotional connection occurs between a viewer and one of my photographs, no matter the venue, that seems to be the key to a sale. Sometimes, it is an impulse purchase; sometimes it’s more “deliberate,” occuring after repeated viewings…
    Interestingly – and happily – a sale may occur literally years after a photograph appeared in a non-gallery setting. In one case, I had mounted several exhibits at a Washington, D.C. sushi restaurant. This arrangement would end after a customer convinced the owner he should be displaying Japanese scenes (which she had photographed). Oh, well…
    But a few years after one of my shows, another customer asked the owner for my contact information. She was in touch and asked if one of my photographs (of a biplane flying under a full moon) was still available. Turned out, she and a neighbor wanted to surprise another neighbor who had just gotten his pilot’s license. Together, they purchased a framed 14 x 20 print, which I was happy to deliver and share in their joy and enthusiasm. They later told me the recipient was surprised and delighted by their thoughtful gift.
    Another happy happenstance: I had a large show covering an atrium and several corridors of a local hospital. During the run, a nurse who worked there contacted me to purchase two framed 14 x 20 black and white photos I’d taken a few years earlier in the village of Nesso, along Italy’s Lake Como. She and her fiancé had vacationed there, and she wanted to surprise him. As I recall, these were the only sales from a very large exhibit, but I am – always – delighted when a photograph or two strike an emotional resonance leading to a sale…
    As others have pointed out, it is most definitely a crap-shoot, especially considering all the work that goes into mounting – and maintaining – an exhibit. But one thing IS certain: If one’s work remains in clear plastic bags in a storeroom, it will be seen by … no one.
    Good luck to all my kindred spirits in the world of the struggling artist!

  20. Jason, this extends to show venues as well. I just finished a plein air comp and was invited to show at the local league’s art gallery thereafter. As I was also solicited for a workshop there next year, it seemed like a good idea – at least the membership would see the work, and hopefully, it would create some buzz and signups for the workshop. Until, that is, the league decided we would not be permitted to leave anything at the PA show for them to pick up; they wanted us (almost all out of towners) to go home, then come back 2 days later with the work (so just staying over wasn’t even an option), then be back again in December (holiday season!) to pick up. That’s another 10 – 15 hours of driving for some of us and much more for others. So, thanks, but no thanks. Those pieces will go into a big studio tour show in November with a much higher chance of selling. People, I tell, you: be good to your galleries. Sometimes, these little local venues – the juice ain’t worth the squeeze.

  21. over the decades i have shown in libraries, churches, car dealerships, restaraunts, drs offices etc etc. ALL have their downside which have to be mitigated by research and insurance policies. [no insurance /no art]. it must be art that is passive in nature and appealing to broad cross section of the public. the likelihood of finding a collector is actually quite good as they are the ones who look at the art around them. choosing venues with clientelle close to your collector profile helps. overall you will not make money at it. some art will be stolen, others will be trashed, others will need cleaning after [grease/food/finger prints etc] . As my prices are now well beyond these venues i no longer participate except when the venue buys work outright and then wants to do a reception for their own purposes. i also owned an art rental company but be carefull as expenses and hassles are considerable. to do that successfully you need to be a lawyer and have deep pockets because you will need both.

  22. My work was displayed at a local private dinner club for six months, but this was through an art consultant and I was paid a stipend. The consultant hung the work, managed sales, and took down the work and delivered to me. There were no sales, but the stipend was decent. The venue carried the insurance and this was stipulated in the contract. This is the only way to go for non-art venues in my opinion.

  23. Make certain what type of restaurant you show your work. Paintings on canvas will absorb the cooking odors. I made this mistake and had to throw away 10 paintings. I even tried painting over them to use canvas but odor was still to strong.

  24. Just sold another painting today at a golf course restaurant. Our local artist association has about a dozen venues with art rotating every 3 months. The rural community really enjoys it. Our prices are more affordable ($100-$300) than bigger cities. Some venues have two artists sharing space.

  25. Well, it is a myth the art won’t sell! I just had a three month show at a dentist’s office and sold over $2500 of photography, more than I ever have in one place.
    I am currently showing at a salon/ record shop in Seattle, and the owner feels confident of selling my art there.
    Just be smart and don’t make any blanket assumptions. Do your homework and keep an open mind!

  26. I’m about to find out. I created a fish abstract sculpture that placed highly in a local juried show, but I had no space for it and it really was a one off. While walking past a new fish and chip place I noticed they had wonderful empty wall space and went in to offer the work to the young couple who had just opened the business. They were thrilled to get this conversation starting piece for their wall and put it in a place of prominence.
    Long story short, we are meeting this week to talk about doing revolving student shows as they are in an area heavily trafficked by university students out on the town.
    What will come of it? Who knows, but I love seeing the work in the space and knowing it gets talked about by many. The work, not me, I know. I’m okay with that and wonder where all this will lead to in time. Cheers.

  27. Early in my career, I exhibited my work in many public venues, usually organized by one of many local artist’s co-ops that I belonged to at the time. These were banks, libraries, coffee shops, hotels. I never felt like any of the people working in these places appreciated having the chance to see real paintings! Nobody ever said thank you.
    I sold one large cityscape that the buyer had seen at a coffee shop. The other, a pastel drawing, sold from the co-op gallery. I never got another sale from these buyers, and it didn’t help my career. That was before the internet.
    Things have changed with the internet. The more eyes that see my work, the more I sell.

  28. I took over the organizing of artists hanging their work at our local dentist office from my mom who is also an artist. I too have hung my work there many times over the past 10 years. I will say that not one person has ever sold any of their work at this venue. The office is beautiful and the artwork looks great but I think that once people get their dental bill they are horrified and are not looking to buy art on their way out! Having said this maybe the current artist will prove me wrong! I did read a comment above who said they sold and that is fantastic!

  29. One of my cancer doctors is also a rather good artist who hangs her work in her office suite. Beautiful work! I’m always captivated by one piece in particular of the Grand Canyon (well done composition, incredible coloration). The receptionist commented that I’m one of the few who always looked at it.

    My audiologist’s office has two beautiful pieces hanging in the reception area (and one kinda blah piece). Due to the above experience, I asked the receptionist if others enjoyed the pieces. She answered that she didn’t think so as she had not noticed anyone looking at them. Sigh.

    p.s. Cancer free, now. Miss exchanging opinions with that doctor on experimenting with different mediums.

  30. Hello, everyone! I think that a better solution for this would be to give prints not original art. Ask the price of printing and giving them to the doctor’s office to keep. Easier, no headaches and the people would look at something that is very close to an original and can be damaged or stolen without big pain.
    If it is a watercolor, even easier, no one would understand the difference since it is under glass!

  31. If the doctor wants an original, he should pay for it. When they see patients they do not get Tanks as pay, they take cash. Why would be different for us? Same for lawyers. We go to school for 6 years and we learn a lifetime, why our work must be free and theirs is not?

  32. I was asked to do a solo show at a hair salon in Santa Barbara. I was hesitant at first because the work would be up for 3 months but in the end it was worth the exposure. I sold a painting of Ventura to the owner right way and was discovered by a new collector. The collector commissioned me to paint a very large landscape of Carmel. The only problem was that I moved within that time and had to arrange for someone to pick up my paintings. I was asked to show again at the same salon but I it’s a big commitment to travel there now.
    I’m currently displaying 2 painting at The City Of Hope in Irvine, CA. They will be there for 6 months and I’m hoping for exposure if not a sale.
    I think any exposure is good as long as it’s logistically favorable. Now a days wall space is fought after. I first did this in 2014 when it was a new idea, but now it’s common practice.

  33. I show my work all over town. I’m currently at a local coffee shop and have sold my first painting within the first 3 days….$2000 painting. I’ve received lots of positive comments and picked up a couple of commissions. I show at a local winery and have sold up to $10,000 worth of art there over the last couple of years.
    I also show at our local art museum and airport and have done well there too….
    In my opinion, if it’s a popular venue…go for it….you just never know!

  34. I used to hang my work in a small one woman hair salon within a larger day spa. The stylist was a friend who talked up my work to her clients while they were getting their hair done. I sold quite a number of paintings through her as well as commissions. She didn’t ask but I gave her 25% on each sale which I’m sure encouraged her to sell more. It was a profitable arrangement for both us and lasted for a few years, until she moved on to another location.

  35. It is all situation dependent. We have exhibited twice in a local restaurant where the owner loves us and has personally bought our work. He SELLS for us. Another restaurant has shown our work twice – he provides a great opening Vernissage and we sell quite a lot while we are there at the moment, and (with his help) we get good media coverage. (After the Vernissage nothing happens, of course.) Others we consider as resume building and perhaps free storage. Nothing damaged or lost, but nothing sold – but for sure it won’t sell in our storage. P.S. The exhibition at our bank was interesting. Covid arrived just after we hung the show, and the bank was closed to the public for quite a while, but it certainly helped us with our banking needs! Its not only about sales – sometimes it is about relationships.

  36. Yes it is worth doing so. Our local hospital regularly allows local artist to display their work with certain provisions as to content. I have had numerous pieces there and folks have come in my studio saying they saw my work at the hospital. It is far better advertising than having my work sitting on the floor of my studio leaning against the wall. Recently I sold ($800) a large “goofy” dog painting that hung in the cardiology ward. As I do many cocktail paintings – I have my work in a local high end cocktail lounge. Again a large martini painting (30 inches) sold for $700 and now sits over a bar in a new $2 M home. I show in local galleries consistently but with a large inventory of work, I am always open to showing in other venues.

  37. I have shown work in several restaurants and theaters in my hometown where they have a reception for the artist on First Friday, a night when galleries are also hosting receptions. While I’ve never sold from a restaurant, I have sold while showing in theaters. People often look at the artwork on display during intermission in the play. I no longer show in restaurants but am open to showing in theaters where the patrons are interested in the arts. This is also a way to get your name out in the public.

  38. I’d like to add something that’s not mentioned. I was in a show in a cancer doctor’s waiting area and my painting was up (among many others) for three months. A year or so later, at an Open Studio event, someoone came up to me and said that they had seen my work before and it was at the doctor’s office. She said that the art there had been such a welcome distraction from what her mother was facing.
    Not all of our payment is in cash….
    Also, in terms of hanging in a restaurant/coffee shop, I’m very wary because my work is generally on paper and I’ve had things hung where the paper has absorbed the smell of the restaurant – even through the frame! So I generally go to the place first and make sure that there aren’t cooking smells or grease in the air.
    Otherwise, hanging in odd places or restaurants is always better than resting in storage. 🙂

  39. While immersed in that alternate universe of waiting, I have deeply appreciated art by local artists in our hospital here. However when I agreed to show mine there, it simply vanished after a year or so. Poof. So I am less inclined in that direction.

  40. My simple comment is, if you have framed or stretched PRINTS you don’t mind taking off the regular sales market, try it! In NO situation would I ever tie up ORIGINALS in this scenario.

  41. For context, I have shown work in multiple local coffee shops, art pop ups in local businesses, festivals, and art markets. I have been a part of many group gallery shows as well. I am considering applying for a solo show at our local gallery/museum in the next few months, if I don’t chicken out again!

    I think this question does not result in universal answers. What is the venue? What are the customer demographics? Do they take a fee? Have they done this before? Do they show respect for the arts? Are my pieces large? small? well priced? And how will that affect the outcome for making a sale? I think there are many questions to consider before accepting a non-gallery opportunity. Including what you expect from them. For me, I require that no one walk away with art without first paying cash for it.

    I don’t think I would show my work in a doctor/dentist setting for two reasons. I have never seen someone look around a dentist office. They immediately pull out their phone to mindlessly scroll. And if someone is nervous about a doctor visit I don’t think they will be able to enjoy the art enough to purchase. I don’t do boutique pop ups anymore either. These are usually places for mindless shoppers, and at least in my city, people who don’t value art.

    The places I have had the most successful sales come through is when I show in local coffee shops! My first experience was showing nine drawings. The place had me hang, I displayed my info and had to handle all sales myself. This coffee shop shows 3 artists at a time on monthly rotations. People with interest emailed me and I met them at the coffee house to receive payment and they could take the piece with them after. I liked this framework because I was able to have control for who took art down and I could meet each person who fell in love with my work and make connections with them. That month I sold four pieces, and got two commissions from it! A success in my book. Plus, at the end of the month they host an artist pop up with the three showing artists. I made a few more sales there (mostly smaller, more affordable work.) I show about 9 new pieces for one month out of the year.

    I have also shown at other coffee shops in nearby and even smaller towns and still had success. I don’t show in shops that take fees or commission if they don’t market or handle sales. This way it isn’t much of a financial risk to me. Through this curious and creative approach to the gallery alternative I have had really great experiences. I have grown to understand what type of person values my work and where to find them. It has led to new opportunities and more community exposure. People who don’t really go to the gallery shows have come across my work and just had to have it.

    The other positive to this is that people in a coffee shop are there for a certain experience. Usually there are more opportunities to relax and slow down. They might be there everyday. If you are going to purchase work, you need to fall in love with it. And sometimes, in order to fall in love with it, you need to spend time with it. (Of course, there are many other factors… like price!) The coffee shop is a great place to do that because you have the time.

    I think work on the smaller and more affordable side certainly helps as well. I also usually frame this work with pretty cheap frames and my price reflects this. They can pay to have it reframed. If I am showing larger work in a gallery I get a nicer frame and my price reflects that. I know this goes against most art advice but it works for me. Also not everyone has a local gallery that earns their commission as far as being educated about the work, wanting the best for their artists, good marketing etc. And I am surrounded by vanity galleries that don’t seem motivated to sell because the artists essentially pay for the gallery’s rent. This has been a nice alternative for me.

    Of course, this is focused on the business side of things. It also is valuable to me to hear people who don’t or can’t buy say they love my work. And to get the work in front of people brings me joy!

  42. There are restaurants that are known for the art and artists they show. Artist might be working there. I showed in a cafe where the owner had an “opening night” which filled the cafe and sold some art.

  43. Several years ago, I installed images from the 30th
    anniversary of Woodstock at Yasgurs farms
    ” gathering” . The night spots theme was rock music
    with an inhouse brewery. Unfortunately, the location
    was closed and I had to pull the display .
    However, in the time the images were installed
    many people associated with local galleries became
    familiar with my work.
    Although there were no sales from the installation,
    contacts for several locations were established
    in local galleries and businesses , that are for sale !
    Sometimes risking “free ” exposure to the public
    can pay dividends for future installations .

  44. There is a lot of great advice from the experienced artists above. I am speaking as a newcomer to selling but will be much more active in the near future. I just want to add a few ideas and comments. No. 1 never put a high value art piece in a place where someone could just walk away with it. I would put up something that if it was taken, I won’t take a big loss like maybe a print, never an original with value. As an artist I am one of the few people who actually looks at art on a doctor or dentist’s office wall. Buying a piece of art is the last thing on someone’s mind in those places. However, art at a coffee shop might be ok, and in a place such as a cocktail lounge or a restaurant that has a theme like being on vacation in Italy would add to the experience with a scene overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Again, make sure it’s not easy to just take it off the wall and not easy for people damage or soil it. I would put a small sign on or next to the art where you could find out more info and price, such as your website, something large enough for someone to take a quick note without being a distraction to other customers. I think the best situation would be for the owner to buy the print then you don’t have to worry about it. You handle all transactions yourself don’t expect the store to sell for you. This arrangement would benefit both you and the store. I would not pay someone to show my art unless it’s in a gallery that is in the business of selling art.

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