It's difficult to curate a show of your own work—to separate your complex feelings following the creative process. It might be helpful to think about your art like a museum thinks about its collections.
And I'm not talking about exhibitions here. I'm talking about how you're showing the work on your website.
Think Like a Museum Curator
In a separate post I discussed the value of curating your art and approaching it as an additive rather than subtractive process.
The first step in curating your art is to start with a piece or two that best represent what you’re trying to communicate. After you’ve done this, you can build your exhibition or Web page around that piece.
If you find you have too many in the end, you can start subtracting.
That's how I hope you view your website. Start with the strongest work and add only additional work when it makes the collection stronger. If you're honest with yourself, you know that some of the work won't stand up.
The Magic Number of Pieces to Show
The question that prompted this article was from a reader who wondered whether or not there is a sweet spot for the amount of inventory visible to viewers, collectors, gallerists and curators. There is no such sweet spot that would satisfy all of these groups of people, but I'll take a stab at an answer.
I have found that 12-15 images per website page is a good number, but impact trumps any formula.
Impact, above all else, is what you’re after. If you want people to say “WOW!” consider the following.
- What are you trying to communicate?
- What number, what piece, what grouping best communicates your idea?
- Why should you include that work? Why is it important? What does it contribute to the works you’ve already selected?
- What should you leave out? What has already sold? What doesn’t belong? What should you rethink/rework?
And … You can’t make an impact online with tiny images. Thumbnails should take up most of the width of a visible page. In I’d Rather Be in the Studio, I suggest thumbnails no smaller than 150 pixels wide, but 200-250 would be even better. In other words, thumbnails that are as big as possible.
After you have lived with the work for awhile, you might feel the need to mix things up. Again, we can go back to how curators work in museums.
Dale Chihuly's floating glass orbs, Niijima Floats at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Mix It Up
Museums have permanent collections that they own. The works are always in their possession, whether they're on the wall or in storage. If the art stayed in the same place all of the time, the museum risks its role as a dynamic force in the interpretation of culture.
Museums must frequently present art in new contexts. Times change, new curators with their own viewpoints come on staff, and additional objects are added to the collections.
Fresh installations of the art stave off visitor boredom. People look at the work differently and are less likely to dismiss the art with the statement “I've already seen that.”
Museums do this through exhibitions. You can do the same in a brick-and-mortar space, or do it through virtual exhibitions on your website, in your newsletter, in carefully crafted blog posts, in album groupings on Facebook, or on Pinterest boards.
The bottom line is that I encourage you to approach the curatorial process like you’re making a piece of art because you are. You are creating a composition from separate parts that might have different meaning when discovered in new combinations.
Want more examples for remixing your work? Read this post.
This post was first published on August 21, 2013 and has been updated with original comments intact.