Curate a Solo Show

Are you still diddling around with juried shows or exhibitions with your art group?

There’s nothing wrong with either one of these as a starting point, but there comes a time when you have to leave the nest. You have to plan a solo exhibition.

Your career will grow rapidly when you start having solo exhibitions of your art.

Installation of Elaine Kehew’s solo show “Mixtape” in Nairobi, Kenya.

Installation of Elaine Kehew’s solo show “Mixtape” in Nairobi, Kenya.

Solo shows are the pinnacle of an artist’s career, but in most artists’ dreams, they usually take place at fine galleries and museums.

Those prestigious venues will happen for those who persevere. In the beginning, you will probably need to curate your solo show for less lofty places.

All possibilities are on the table: restaurants, private homes, rented storefronts, bank lobbies, salons or your garage.

The location doesn’t matter too much. What does matter is that it’s only your work and that you have an opening or event to invite people to.
A solo show stretches all of your professional muscles.

Installation of Holly Wilson’s solo exhibition “Weight of Water,” 2011, at JRB Art at the Elms in Oklahoma City, OK.

Installation of Holly Wilson’s solo exhibition “Weight of Water,” 2011, at JRB Art at the Elms in Oklahoma City, OK.

In sponsored group shows, you follow the rules. Someone else sets the dates and deadlines while telling you the exact format for everything.

When you put together a show of only your work, you make the rules. This forces you to be organized and proactive. You realize that you are in charge of your destiny.

When you’re part of a group show, you never know whose work is going to be next to yours. You can’t be assured of the quality.

For your own show, you know precisely what to expect from your work. This means you have 100 percent control and 100 percent responsibility.

This is daunting, which is why not all artists can pull it off.

A solo exhibition forces you to look at your body of work, not just two or three pieces that you will submit to a jury. You must think about what ties the work together, and how others will interpret it.

The entire process develops your critical thinking. You have to decide what to include, which pieces to put next to one another, and how to interpret the work for your audience.

You must come up with language for your statement, for your publicity and for talking with the public about your art. It’s fairly easy to do this with a single piece. It’s harder, yet necessary, to do for a complete body of work.
Commit to having at least one solo exhibition this year.

As I tell my private clients, you don’t have to know how it will happen. You just have to make the commitment.

All kinds of things will work in your favor once you commit to taking a big step.

Notice when you find yourself thinking of all the reasons that you can’t accept this challenge. These are probably excuses.

Reframe the situation and start figuring out how you can make it happen. Remind yourself of the good things that could result from taking this step.

Do you have a solo show on tap this year? Feel free to tell us about it in a comment below.


Alyson Stanfield is an artist advocate and business mentor at ArtBizCoach.com. This article was originally published in her Art Biz Insider, which is sent weekly to thousands of artists who are elevating their businesses. Start your subscription now and get Alyson’s 6 free art-marketing video lessons at artbizcoach.com.

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