Exhibition proposals sound formal and intimidating, but they don't have to be. This outline for writing an exhibition proposal is easy to follow and will help you gain confidence in proposing art shows to a variety of exhibit venues.
What Is Your Curatorial Thesis?
When you ask to show your art at a venue, you need to be very clear about what you are offering. People don’t often say Yes to vague offers.
Think about what ties the work together. This is your curatorial thesis – your big idea. Writing it out, as you’ll see below, helps you find the clarity you need.
Before sitting down to write your exhibition proposal, ask the venue if they have a particular exhibition proposal format they prefer. If they do, follow their instructions. If they don’t have specific guidelines, you’ll have to compile an exhibition proposal for yourself.
The details of your proposal will vary depending on whether you’re proposing a show at a coffee shop, a pop-up space, or a nonprofit gallery. You will have to judge what is appropriate for your situation.
Here are major components you’ll include.
Introduce Yourself in a Cover Letter
Personalize your cover letter with the correct name and spelling of the manager, exhibitions director, or curator. It’s much nicer to show you have done your homework than to start off with a generic To Whom It May Concern salutation.
I like to begin cover letters with an acknowledgement that I know something about the recipient. You could compliment them on a recent exhibition or say that you’ve been reading about them. You should also mention anyone you know who is associated with the venue – a patron, board member, or artist.
Thank the recipient for considering your proposal.
Document for Your Exhibition Proposal
The meat of your proposal is a document that outlines the particulars of the exhibition.
- Explain why your art is a good fit with the venue’s exhibition program.
- Describe the exhibition contents and curatorial thesis in 3-4 sentences.
- List the artists, if others are to be included. Insert your résumé or bio, as well as those from any other artists.
- Provide a complete inventory of works to be shown. Include titles, media, and prices.
- Estimate the space required in square or linear feet and any expenses that might be incurred by the venue.
- Suggest a timeline for the show.
Images to Include
Finally, include images of your art in the proposal.
For a small show, include all of the works you plan on showing. For a larger show, you can use a sample of 10-20 images as long as the images are representative of the entire exhibition.
I hope you see how the process of writing an exhibition proposal can be a valuable start to a successful exhibition. And it's just a first step. Once accepted, you will need a written agreement that outlines the terms between you and the venue and a plan for executing all that you have promised.
This post was originally published on July 28, 2014, and has been updated with original comments intact.