Approaching Curators and Commissioners


Having exhibitions is a vital part of being an artist, but sometimes it can seem difficult to get seen in the places you want to, knowing who to talk to and what the mechanics are behind getting shown.

Following on from attending a stimulating discussion at HOME in Manchester titled ‘Working with Curators and Galleries’, we have put together 10 helpful tips to start moving forward with getting your work shown, and finding interesting projects to be part of.


1. Don’t start the conversation by asking for an exhibition

Galleries receive lots of unsolicited emails every week asking if they can host an exhibition. Many places simply won’t respond to these, unless there has been a specific call-out for proposals.

2. Allow plenty of time

Be aware that smaller galleries and project spaces will be programmed at least 8 to 12 months in advance, larger organisations often two years in advance.

3. Prepare great documentation of your previous work

Often curators or people organising exhibitions will see images of your work before they see the real thing. Spend some time going through your documentation of previous projects and putting together the images which really show you off. Be selective, often five good images are better than 50 bad ones. Check out our previous guide on documenting your work here >

4. Be friendly and easy to contact

Successful projects are often the result of a positive relationship. This is about generosity, respect and good communication from both parties. Make sure you have a business card ready for chance encounters, and follow up meetings with an email making sure they have your details.

5. Find galleries and projects which are appropriate for your work

All galleries and projects are different, and often they will organise exhibitions with some focus or model. This might be a focus on new commissions, artists at a certain point in their career or artists whose work involves technology or heritage. Do some research and find galleries and projects which chime with the work you are making.

6. Speak to other artists

Often by speaking to artists who are exhibiting you will get an idea about how these opportunities came about, who they spoke to or what they applied for. Being part of a network with other like-minded artists is very important to getting your work seen by peers, and can often open doors to getting exhibitions.

7. Have a good online portfolio you can direct people to

A good online presence doesn’t have to mean being on social media 24/7, it can just be having somewhere where you can direct people to get a clear picture of the work you have made and an up-to-date CV. Check out our guide to developing your online footprint here >

8. Invite curators for a studio visit

Inviting curators to see your studio and works-in-progress is a great way to talk to show the breadth of your practice and the motivations behind it, as well as getting to talk to them one-on-one. It doesn’t have to be formal, if you work in a studio group then it can be a good idea for a few people to open up if you know someone is visiting.

9. Invite curators to other exhibitions and projects you are in

If there is somewhere people can see your work ‘in the flesh’ then make sure you let them know. For curators who might be interested in including you in an exhibition, then it gives them a chance to experience your work in a gallery setting, to see how it functions in a space.

10. Be confident in your artwork

Trust in your work and let it speak for itself in some cases. Be honest about it, and allow people to make their own judgements on it.

Img. Demo, 2016, Sarah Hughes. Check out her work here>




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