Marketing your exhibition
An artist asks:
How much flexibility is there in marketing an exhibition, both in terms of what the gallery can offer and what the artist should be doing to help?
It’s always best when the gallery and the artist work together to promote an exhibition – but of course, artists and galleries can have different ideas of what this looks like. Each gallery has its own marketing plan, whether that’s a formal written plan backed up with market research, with their target markets, key messages and marketing channels all spelled out; or something that’s been drawn up on the back of a napkin.
There are reasons why a gallery chooses to market the way they do: a gallery with a digital-only strategy may have identified that their audience is primarily young; while galleries with an older market may choose to prioritise old school printed invites sent via post. The size of the gallery may also dictate things like where and how often they advertise.
As an artist, it’s important to find out what sort of marketing plan a gallery has before you agree to an exhibition, to make sure you’re both on the same page. If you don’t like the way a gallery markets itself, or if they use methods that you think won’t work for your target audience, you’d be better off either having that discussion early, or finding a gallery that is a better fit. What you don’t want to do is wait until the week before your exhibition and then scream at the curator because you didn’t realise the gallery doesn’t do printed invitations (yes, this is a thing that happened).
So, in answer to the question about how much flexibility there is, I would say it’s best to have that discussion well in advance of your exhibition. Some galleries would be happy for you to do your own marketing separate to theirs, but others might be stricter about maintaining their brand and sticking to one exhibition narrative.
The easiest way to contribute to the marketing is to share whatever materials the gallery is putting out – from social media posts and website links, to articles and reviews in the press, to printed postcards and invites. And, as I mentioned above, if you do your homework in advance, you’ll have a better chance of finding a gallery whose marketing vision aligns with yours.