Art Exhibition Checklist and Timeline to Customize

There is so much to think about when you're getting organized for an art exhibition. 

Above all, you should be making and finishing the art. I'll leave that part to you, but an exhibition checklist will keep you on task for your show so you can concentrate on the art part.

Rachel Brask Painting Exhibition
Panorama of Rachel Brask's painting exhibition.

The tasks on your checklist, and the deadlines you give them, will depend on the following:

  • The type of exhibition (juried, self-curated, open studio)
  • If the venue is in charge of sales and refreshments or if that’s up to you
  • Whether you’re showing with other artists
  • The amount of time you have to plan

With this in mind, you can use the list below to customize your own timeline. 

Or click this big yellow button to download the comprehensive list.

Do It Now

Set a goal. What would you like to have happen at this exhibition or as a result of it?

Plan your budget. How much can you afford to spend on materials and framing? How much can you allocate to promotions, printing, and a reception?

Identify a theme and curate the work accordingly. Your exhibition should make sense. What will hold the works together?

Give it a title because titles distinguish one show from another on your résumé.
Titles with your name in them scream “solo show!”

Art Exhibition in the Arvada Center Galleries

Update your postcard list to include new acquaintances and your email list to include those who have requested to receive email from you.

Discuss all arrangements with the venue’s contact person. These include sales, dates and deadlines, insurance, security, opening reception, advertising, and other items on this list. You don’t need any surprises or miscommunication.

Sign the contract. If you're having your exhibit anywhere but your own home or studio, you should have a written, signed contract (or letter of agreement) with the other venue. No exceptions! Again, we’re trying to avoid any unwanted surprises.

Create a Pinterest board around your exhibition.

Do It Soon

Design and print invitations or postcards, if you have time.

Pull together publicity material.

Have promotional brochures or flyers ready to hand to people that describes you and your work and reminds them of upcoming events. Put together a notebook with plastic sleeve inserts that details your accomplishments (magazine articles, resume, statement, etc.). You can display all of these in the exhibition space.

Address, stamp, and deliver invitations.

Jamie Luoto Installing Her Art
Jamie L. Luoto installs her art.

Print object labels with your name, title of artwork, and medium on them.

Get straight on your prices and create a price and inventory list.

Organize sales material. Gather your credit card materials, receipts, and cash box, if needed.

Get help. Call on good friends to help with the installation. Ask a friend or family member to help greet visitors and make them feel comfortable. Designate someone to process sales for you.

Schedule any educational programs, such as an artist or slide talk.

Plan refreshments. Have something for your guests to eat and drink so that they stay awhile. Keep it simple (but special) so that you don’t add stress to the event.

Look into extra insurance if you are hosting in your home or studio. Are you covered for your work and exhibition space? Do you have liability insurance for your guests?

Post the details of the exhibition on your website or blog. Create a special page that is easy to send people to.

Post a quick teaser with a link to the exhibition information on Facebook. Tweet it, too.

Write and send press releases.

Two Weeks Before the Opening

Send an email invitation to your mailing list.

Send personal emails to people you want to come who aren’t part of your bulk email list. 

Ask your friends to invite their friends.

Repost teasers and info to Facebook and Twitter.

Just Before the Opening

Deliver and install your artwork. Double check the lighting. Learn how to light your art properly!

Ask the venue to sign off on the inventory you’re leaving in their hands.

Devise a way to count visitors. (Use your extra help for this.)


Liza Myers at her opening
Liza Myers poses with friends and fans at her art opening in Santa Fe.

Last Minute

Send an email reminder to your list the day before the opening.

Text close friends you want to pay special attention to.

Grab plenty of business cards.

Get refreshments ready for the opening.

Put out your guest book and make a clear note of how you will use people’s information when they sign up.

Wear a name badge. Add the word “sales” to the tag of your designated salesperson.

Assign someone to interrupt you. It’s important that you’re free for all of your guests, which means keeping others from monopolizing your time. If you find yourself stuck, a good friend could tap you on the shoulder and say that so-and-so would like to meet you.

While the Exhibition is Running

Follow up with any leads you had at the opening.

Write Thank You notes to everyone who helped the show come together.

Just Before the Exhibition Closes

Send an email to your local peeps to remind them that the show is closing.

After the Exhibition Closes

Follow up with any leads.

Review these three things:

  1. What went right?
  2. What went wrong?
  3. What do you wish you had known?
  4. What would you do differently next time?

Once you have a reliable system in place, your art exhibitions will be much less stressful. You can save your energy for making the best art you can and showing lots of love to those who attend your show.

Here's that resource again. One. More. Time.

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28 thoughts on “Art Exhibition Checklist and Timeline to Customize”

  1. Thanks Alyson,

    I would be curious to see examples of exhibition landing pages. And what do you do with the page when the exhibition (or other promotion) is over?

    P.S. When is a Home page good. What is it useful for?

    1. Elizabeth: I sure wish I could show you an exhibition landing page, but the truth is that I can’t even begin to come up with an artist who has one. Here’s an example of a workshop landing page .

      After the exhibition is over, I would 1) make sure it’s not in your main menu 2) Just make sure the dates are clear May 2-31, 2015 (so people would know it has passed) and 3) review other text on the page to see if anything else needs updating.

  2. This list is so comprehensive! I’m curious about the insurance aspect. Would this be event insurance?

    Is the difference between a self-curated show and an open studio that at the studio there may not necessarily be a theme other than whatever is in the studio can get seen?

    1. Patricia: Not sure about your insurance question. If you have business insurance (as I do) you probably don’t need event insurance.

      The difference between the two shows you mention is only that one is in the studio. And often open studios are part of a larger tour of studios in a town/city.

  3. Thank you for this very comprehensive list, bookmarked! 🙂 it will come very handy for my next art show.

    Incidentally, I have a group art show opening today and I completely dropped the ball on promoting it.

    Luckily the organizers sent out press releases and Facebook invites, but I was so busy running my design business it didn’t even occur to me to promote it to my audience.

    1. Nela: Uh oh. Luckily, group exhibitions are well attended. If you only have 1-2 pieces in a much larger show, it’s less important. Still, they would want to know.

  4. Thanks Alyson, just in time. I’m just about to exhibit in a juried show but, like Nela, promoting to my list wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. I had vaguely thought about it but now I’ll definitely do it 🙂

  5. Hello Alyson:
    This list is indeed comprehensive and so helpful for exhibition events and other related themes. I look forward to putting it to good use in the very near future.
    Great to be in touch!

  6. Do you have an article/suggestions like this for an artist vendor? I assume it would be very similar with just a few changes. I’m considering entering a juried art event limited to 100 regional artists for a 1 day wine and fine art festival.

  7. Hi Alyson,

    I follow you on Twitter and like your blog a lot. Tonight, I’ve been looking at your post on planning a show and noticed that you seem to have a Fifa spammer. I thought you might want to know, so you can get the comments off.

    Thanks for all your good posts.

    1. Sally: Thank you! I have no idea how I missed those. I thought I was pretty on top of all comments.

      I really appreciate your taking the time to write – and I appreciate your following.

  8. hello and thank you for you much needed information. I have a group show coming up in New Orleans on the 2nd of Sept . I will have 15 pieces on display along with 4 other artists having the same . My problem is that my work doesn’t reflect much of anything to do with New Orleans and all the other artist paintings are only of New Orleans . They are not putting much efforts into promoting the exhibit and I have done much of what’s found here . I live in Alabama , so for me to do this show I’m doing a lot .My question is should I have my own persons to speak of my art , have my own guess book ,brochures ,postcards and so on , what about press release…please advise if possible thank you .

  9. So glad I found this article on your blog this morning. Getting ready to converse with a contact who invited me to exhibit at a local business and arts college. With all of this information I can make sure I won’t miss any important points while ironing out the details of the exhibit.
    So grateful for you and the work you do to help artists promote their work!

  10. When is a good time to distribute a brochure about an exhibition? I’m 8 months away, but since I’m painting my bat the gallery every Saturday morning, I’m already engaging with a lot of people. Since I’m telling them about it verbally, I thought it would be a great time to go ahead and get something in their hands.

  11. Always great information to review no matter how many times an artist has exhibited, good to revisit and evaluate pre-, during, and post-exhibition tasks as you’ve outlined.

    P.S. Thanks for featuring one of my exhibition photos in your article! 🙂

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