Opening the Gallery Doors

 "Watson". Artist and Gallery Director at ArtistAngle Gallery.

"Watson". Artist and Gallery Director at ArtistAngle Gallery.

Have you ever submitted artwork to an exhibition and have the work rejected?  Did you wonder why your art piece didn't "make the cut?"  Have you ever attended an exhibition and wondered why certain pieces were included?

Today's guest blogger, Watson, tells us what a curator looks for when building an exhibition.



I’m a career artist who has long dabbled in curating exhibitions. Recently I took a director position at a local gallery. It’s a small gallery that I’ve worked closely with for the past few years. The experience has been an eye-opener both as a curator and as an artist.

Throughout my art career, I’ve dealt with a number of art venues. I’ve had fantastic experiences and others that were not so great. Regardless, every experience taught me something about the art industry.

I study a lot of art publications, websites, and articles. I’m fully aware that at top levels in the art world things may be different, but the largest percentage of us do not live in that world. In the environment in which most of us reside and create, a gallery curator wears many hats. I find myself acting as salesperson, marketing director, designer, etc…  I once even spent several hours holding a sign on the street to encourage patrons to visit the gallery.

Everyone’s experience is different, but there are a few things I’ve learned by spending time as both an artist and curator.

Getting a Feel For It

Every person curates their own “collection” to some extent. Whether you are an experienced art collector, or simply have a plethora of tchotchkes, you are the curator of your own home. When you buy a new vase because it’ll look great next to the photo from your last vacation, you are making curatorial decisions. For visitors, these choices determine the feel of your home.

Curators develop the feel of the gallery. Done correctly, each show should fluidly flow into the next, much like rooms in a home. The exhibitions may be dramatically different, but each show should have a consistent level of artistic quality that somehow fits the aesthetic of the space and the exhibition theme.

Decisions, Decisions…

Deciding what artwork to show can be a tough job. It requires that decisions be made that are somewhat subjective, but without allowing personal taste to overshadow these choices.

I recently curated a group show and had significantly more entries than wall space. There were fantastic works which I’d gladly hang in my own home. However, several of these were not selected. Why weren't they selected?

When you visit any art exhibition you will notice that consistency is key. There should be something that ties the works together, whether it be color, style, subject matter, or any other number of attributes.

If you've had the experience of not being selected for an exhibition, the odds are your artwork (while stunning) wasn't consistent with the selected attributes.

A good curator recognizes the talent and aesthetics of a work of art. That doesn’t mean the curator has to like it. I personally am drawn to daring, contemporary works, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate (and show) artwork by artists working in more traditional styles.

Forget Match and Tinder, Visit a Gallery

A good relationship between art patron, artist, and curator is truly important to success as an artist and an art collector. A good curator is like a matchmaker, looking to pair art lovers with artwork that speaks to them. Go visit that gallery you’ve passed by a million times, but never got around to stopping in. You might just find your perfect “match”.



Final Thoughts

I am grateful to Watson for providing a curator's perspective. Here are a few things I gleaned from his wisdom. 

  • Consider if your artworks fit the feel of the gallery. (You're not going to submit abstract art to a classical Renaissance gallery.)
  • Does the artistic quality of your artworks meet the quality needed for any given show? (Self-assessment required.)
  • Is your artwork consistent with the attributes selected for the exhibition?  (Granted, you may not understand if your work was/was not consistent until the exhibition opens.)

Let's talk about this.  Feel free to leave your thoughtful and kind comments over on the Facebook page.