Take a Pause Before an Opening

Before an art show or gallery opening, take a few minutes to clear your mind and mentally prepare yourself to work with your clients.

Share Your Thoughts

What do you do to prepare for an opening? What would you advise an artist to do in the minutes immediately prior to an art event? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments 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 reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. 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. Connect with Jason on Facebook

26 Comments

  1. I had my first solo show last year. To prepare, I repeated to myself ahead of time:”This is work, talk to everyone who comes. Pay attention.” What I WISH I had DONE that night was to approach each person who came and say “Thank you for coming to see my work.” I hate going to an opening and waiting to try and figure out who the artist is. I’ll do better next time, but it sure was wonderful.

    1. What great simple advice – just say thank you – it lets everyone know who you are and opens the conversation!

  2. I usually take a walk around my work before a show to look at it from a patron’s point of view. I try to think of questions they might have for me about specific pieces and what I will say. I try to gear up for the excitement ahead. Usually I have to take several deep breaths.

  3. I learned to make myself comfortable by looking over each piece I am going to put in a show while I pulling everything together for the show, think about each piece entirely, from concept to creation, to completion,. Doing this plus looking over the display, and then just get in the moment allows me to relax and be true. I find that if I stay open and friendly is what helps people relax and do their part. It seems like that is what is needed to get the ball rolling.

    Great article as always, Jayson!

  4. One thing I do before going to a show, is make sure I have a good meal with some peace and quite. I believe this helps me keep my energy up throughout the day. Another thing I try my best not to do at festivals is talk with other artists about how they did the day before or last year. This can get you discouraged and isn’t worth worrying about.

  5. I’ve had three openings – strictly for my work this past year – and two others for group shows of which I was a part. As a public speaker, my own openings are a no-brainer; the only thing I’ve had to ‘work’ at for a solo show is making space for the people who are clearly waiting to talk with me when one person is monopolizing me… now I just come right out and say, “I’m sorry, that person over there has been waiting a while… etc.” It was tough the first time but now some version or another comes right out.

    The group shows – and I usually am a part of two a year – are fundraisers for rehab hospitals, and only open to artists with disabilities. The people come in throngs as these are very high-end, ticketed events, lavishly catered and there are literally hundreds of works to see. Unlike a solo show, there are also numerous artists, usually over 60 show up and I am never, quite frankly, clear what I should do. Standing near my work just seems… I don’t know… awkward? And I don’t appear, at first glance, to be disabled so I don’t have the visual advantage that a wheelchair or breathing tube offers to attract the eye of an observer. (I hope that doesn’t sound awful… but it’s a very real fact.) Help!

    1. Group shows are harder to manage. You must distinguish yourself as much as your work. It isn’t rude if done graciously but I make a habit of intruding. Yes, stand near your work but closer to the traffic flow. Never wait on them. If someone even pauses or glances toward the work or you, interrupt their path. Introduce yourself and engage them. Stop their passage. There is a very subtle body language of turning your back to others and turning that person to view your work. Gesture with your arm to direct their gaze. Bring them closer to see and talk about what you think is the strongest feature of that piece. Have a conversation. If you see genuine interest go forward with a sale. If not, thank them and find another, and another.
      If a small group seems more interested in visiting than viewing art, join their conversation. Intrude, graciously. Repeat with the most interested party.

  6. Hi Jason- I have a tip that seems to work well for a gallery I show in on a regular basis to help promote my work. The gallery holds group shows every couple of months and for each piece that I submit, I include what I call “The Artwork Behind the Scenes”. It’s usually a few paragraphs (that I also post on facebook and my blog) describing how I created the piece, any history or story behind it, how or why I chose the title, etc. that the gallery owner can use to help clients relate to the piece. I also find it helpful to be prepared with this information at openings to engage people in conversation and consequently, it puts me at ease as well.

  7. 1. Set everything up the day before. Walk out knowing that every detail is ready, and all you have to do is show up.
    2. Arrive at least one hour before start time. If your on time, your late!
    3. Take monument to check over all the details and correct any last minute issues. ( this is why your there at least one hour before start)
    4. Tell yourself, “everything is ready, I am ready, there is no need to be stressed since I have taken the time to prepare, I am fully prepared for what is going to happen today!
    5. Now relax and enjoy the show. When you relax and enjoy, the customers will relax and enjoy. And hopefully buy! ))
    Good Luck

  8. Jason, be good if you did a video about selling art on line and passed on any tips, to if your followers have any tips I’d be pleased to hear them,
    Thanks Ta

  9. Ah! The art show! For a solo show I had, I invited many people who I had not met before so I wore a small badge “I’m the artist! Anna Corns”. It really helped as people who wanted to speak to me noticed the badge. They generally laughed and said that it was a wacky but helpful idea, a great icebreaker.
    For a group show one year I was pulled up short…. I invited a friend and her friend. One turned to the other who said .. ” Do let’s go, there is always loads to eat and drink, you won’t get to speak to many of the artists .. THEY ARE TOO BUSY TALKING AMONGEST THEMSELVES”
    I looked around at our next annual show and she was horribly correct.
    So before a show ask yourself why you are there, for the party or business!

    1. Hi Anna, wearing the badge must have been fun after all and certainly worked the purpose. Besides, it is horribly true what happens during a group exhibition opening, mainly if they belong to an artists association and everybody knows everybody. Thanks for bringing up the subject!

  10. Great timing and advice. I’m doing an outdoor art fair this weekend and will work on engaging every potential buyer/collector. In the past I always stood back giving the potential buyer their space…thinking I didn’t want to bug them…but this changes my perspective.

  11. I have a solo exhibition coming up at a Public Art Gallery. This is a very different venue as the show is about the visual, not the sale. I am allowed to have a price list available at the Main desk of the Gallery which is not on the same floor as the exhibition. No prices will appear on the labels. I will be at the opening and will also appear in the Gallery at various times during the 2 month time frame, and will only really be able to mention the pieces are for sale if I happen to hear anyone asking if a piece is for sale. You think that other shows are difficult- try this one on for size. In saying that, it is the most exciting exhibition ever, and a real feather in my cap!! One can only hope for sales!

    1. Hey have you thought about asking a couple of friends to be the ones who chat folks up and shares that you have a price list downstairs. Then you can just be the artist! I have different people do different things at my annual art show. Someone does the greeting and wine, two do the finances, another one is to come and extradite me if i get caught with a chatter and this year I will task a person with changing frames for the 100 small paintings if folks want a different frame than what is one the painting. Also have your website all ready up so that people can purchase the painting right on line right there! 🙂

  12. Iv’e been offering a workshop (2h) and then a short conference (30-45min) before my openings. It gives me intimate moments with people during the workshop (the fees of the workshop largely pays for an abundant buffet), this grows in number when the time for the talk arrives. When it is time for the opening, more people come but I already have a good group of people that have met and connected for a few hours. It gives the event a warm connected feeling (unlike most opening where everyone is coming separately and don’t know who to talk to). It also allows me to focus on the people that I have not met yet earlier in the afternoon. I do the ‘time to pause’ in the morning’ making sure everything practical is done the night before so that my role on the big day is to be fully present and relaxed.

  13. This is so timely, Jason. During May First Friday, I happened to be ready about 30 minutes before opening. It gave me time to breathe, visualize patrons and sales, and relax. When patrons began coming in, I felt refreshed and excited. For June’s First Friday, I didn’t get my notecards from the printer until about 3:00 that day and had to make labels for them and package them. I reassured myself that I was fine and could be calm. I finished just as patrons were coming into my studio. I noticed I wasn’t as calm and refreshed as the previous month and wondered if my demeanor also showed this.

  14. I was later than I wanted to be arriving at my group show due to having to man the gallery during the day. It was a group show and the catering tables piled high with food had been set up too close to my art works and blocking access. I had to be quite strong to get them moved and then realised a lot of people were arriving early. I took five minutes to go the ladies and then walked into a very crowded room. Happy with the outcome but it could have been better and yes, too much time spent talking to fellow artists who gave great feed back but never buy.

  15. I had my first show in December. It was in a gallery in my small town and I talked it up a lot with my family and friends. I knew that some of them were coming so I wasn’t too nervous. I got there early, chatted with the owner, and walked around a bit and took some deep breaths. Many more people than I expected came and it was a great night!

  16. Large or small I find that those interested enough to ocme are interested in you, the artist, as a human being and what you are about. Don’t be afraid to tell what a piece means to you personally. It helps make a connection and people are more likely to buy into knowing you and wanting something to remember the experience.

  17. I think the best that I can do is one, prepare. Next, be early like so many have said-that’s important. Lastly, be confident, casual, and friendly-all states of mind-but important because each prospective buyer can easily “tune in” to your attitude-your body and face most times speak louder than your words.
    Joe Reinke, MN

  18. This year was one of my most successful years for art sales. And that entailed a lot of work putting together 9 group shows and 3 solo shows. What I learned most during this marathon was to prepare my story about the art in advance. That starts when I begin creating each piece or series. My studio has several walk-ins per day and I participate in 2 critique groups. By the time a show comes around, whether group or solo, I have all my stories well scripted and edited for interest. I speak loud enough so that when ‘m discussing my process to 1 or 2 people, several more gallery visitors will converge around my art to listen in. I’ve found that many who purchase my work, fell in love with the subject and/or process so much that they had to own it. In the 4 years that I’ve been showing, 3 solo art openings had a theme. For each of those events I dressed in respectable costume. After all, it is an art “show”.

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