Deep Thought Thursday: Show it again, Sam

When is it okay (if at all) to exhibit previously-shown art?

Are there hard and fast rules?

Are there loose guidelines that you abide by?

Here's the message from Jeanne Guerin-Daley that prompted this:

I find myself wondering if it would be okay to exhibit work which has been shown before. I certainly understand that an artist shouldn't keep showing 3-year-old work over and over again. But if one shows a work in one venue, and it doesn't sell, then maybe a year later, that same artist gets a chance to show in another venue, maybe in another state or at least in another area, and that work isn't yet sold, would it be okay to show that same work?

Image ©Jeanne Guerin-Daley , Early Morning Backyard Sky       

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23 thoughts on “Deep Thought Thursday: Show it again, Sam”

  1. I have shown the same work in two different exhibitions within a few months of each other but as you indicated in the post more than a year or so might be a shabby idea.

  2. I have seen with my own work, as well as with the work of other artists – that many times a painting will sit in one gallery for a while, and then when it’s “rotated” to another gallery, it sells right away.

    It’s good to move them around after several months, exchange work that’s been sitting there for a while with new stuff. Even if it didn’t sell, it looks like it did – because it’s no longer available at that location.,

    Artists who have 3 galleries have the advantage of being able to rotate their body of work.

  3. In today’s economy, I don’t think artists can afford to squirrel away art pieces in their basements just because the pieces didn’t sell in the first 30 days they may have hung in a gallery. Rotate them into new venues, pair older pieces with newer pieces, but make sure your work gets seen widely and often. You may be hanging a piece for the third time, but it may be brand new to the patrons of the gallery housing it.

  4. I have often thought of this myself. Why is it taboo to show work that is more than a year old? I understand that collectors always want to see and purchase the newest works of an artist but what about the ones that don’t sell right away. They’re not necessarily bad paintings they just haven’t been seen by the person that wants to purchase it. The more a work is shown the more chance it has to be seen by someone that just has to have it. So what is an artist to do with older paintings that haven’t shown yet? They are potential income if they get shown but if not then they become a storage problem.

  5. I have several pieces that I have shown in multiple places and have no qualms about showing a piece as often as I can get it shown. However, I wouldn’t necessarily show it in the same region-look for opportunities in different states as often as possible. One of my favorite pieces has been shown locally, in New York and will be in Seattle in the fall-keep ’em on the move! Age doesn’t matter either-if it is a good solid piece keep showing it-sales don’t always need to be the motivation-exposure and name recognition are equally as important for growing a reputation.

  6. I would not show the same work in, let’s say, a second solo exhibition unless it was a retrospective. I do show the same work in group shows, but would usually wait a year or so, unless the venues were separated by a great distance. You wouldn’t want folks gong out of their way to come to a show only to have seen the same pieces a short time before. An exception would be for cafe and coffeehouse shows. I tend to move the work from spot to spot kind of like a traveling exhibition. The clientele is usually different, so new people are seeing the work.

    If I am showing something locally in a group show that was shown previously in another venue, I generally will include at least thumbnails of the works in my announcement of the show.

  7. Allison J Smith

    If you haven’t sold it, show it until it does or you get sick of it!

    Of course, always keep in mind who is attending the event, the same people don’t want to see your stuff too many times!

  8. I think it depends on who you are, and who your audience is.

    Shabby? That’s a loaded and judgmental word, huh? Of course, the commenter was speaking for himself, but I don’t feel *shabby* about showing older work, unless it no longer represents my direction.

    We art fair artists sometimes complain @ the patrons who walk by the booth and say, “I saw that booth last month at fair X.” More a matter of location, but an example of work being *old* in a month!

  9. Showing the same piece again does give the collector (even if they saw it before) another chance to “fall in love” with your work. It has worked for me even if the work is not brand new.

  10. Think of this in terms of music. A song is debuted and then we never hear it again because it is shabby to perform the same piece over again! Ridiculous! And then we buy that music and play it over and over! Well, unless it is the same audience more or less, I would show the same piece again without qualms. One moves a piece around and that way many more people see it. Then someday it might reside in a museum where it doesn’t move around and many people come to see it – over and over.

  11. I think its perfectly fine. Its unrealistic to think that everyone in the world has seen a piece because it was shown in one venue. By showing in multiple venues you are casting a wider net and reaching a broader audience.

  12. Who knows maybe someone saw one of your paintings at a show, was interested by didn’t buy it (for whatever reason). They see it again at another show – they remember and this time they buy it!!

    Who makes up these stupid rules anyway?

    Times have changed – we make the rules now.

  13. Lynn and Lynne both make very good points. And much depends on context. I have shown work in a group show, and then again in a themed show in another location. People who attended both events saw the “old” work in that different context and didn’t even realize it was the same thing they had seen before. And in the second event (two years later)it found a buyer. Go figure!

    As long as you are DOING new work and not just resting on your laurels with the old, sure, keep putting it out there.

  14. Some very good thinking here and among my favorite comments is the one relating showing works over again to the debut of a musical piece and it never being played again. Of course we are going to keep creating new paintings but the old ones are not meant to be discarded, after all, everyone hasn’t seen them yet – especially not the person who is going to buy that piece…


  15. When an oft-exhibited painting does not sell, it is time to critique the presentation. Is the painting good, or is it afflicted with composition or color problems? Is it simply a subject that has a limited audience? Is the frame harmonious with the painting? Is the frame damaged? Would a different style of frame give the painting a whole new look?

  16. The only reason I can think of to not show a painting again is if, like Yvonne suggested, it’s not of proper quality for some reason. Of course, I wouldn’t show an entire grouping of paintings over and over, but wouldn’t hesitate to continue to exhibit a piece if I thought it was excellent quality.

  17. If the audience is going to be different from one show to the next, then what difference does it make if you show the same piece again? Let’s not be ridiculous here. Especially if it’s a group show.

    When I’m doing a yearly festival, I make sure that the majority of the works are new but I will show an unsold piece again, a year or two later. I make sure I show it in a different spot in my area. It’s amazing how rearranging your booth can result in people seeing paintings they didn’t notice before. If a piece doesn’t sell, and I feel it’s a good painting, I will hang it at home and perhaps bring it out again a few years later.

    One thing that helps this, is the fact that I don’t date my paintings. I do this on purpose so no one will be turned off by the fact that a piece is a year or 2 old.

  18. Great comments! For shows with one or two pieces on display I will only show new work. But when showing work at my studio, I have found that more times than not, people will come back to see a piece a second (or even third time) before they buy it. When I can, I will keep track of who spent time with certain pieces and note this in my mailing list. If I show that work some where else I’ll make a point of telling that visitor about the show. Depending on the price of the work, buying art isn’t something many can afford to do on a whim or without their significant other or friend’s second opinion.

  19. These are, one and all, absolutely excellent answers to the question of rehanging previously unsold art pieces…….and I am so glad to have happened on to these comments. Very helpful to me, and I thank you all for your insights. I would like to ask another question fitting for the discussion: When moving pieces around, is it kosher to change the price depending on which venue you introduce it into?

  20. Pingback: Tips for Better Twitter Tweets — Art Biz Blog

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