What to do when an exhibition ends

What I do at the end of an exhibition

There’s a flow to mounting an exhibition, a pattern of highs and lows and the bits in between.

From the start to the end of an exhibition, I feel hopefulness and excitement, creative risk, vulnerability and doubt, pleasure from sharing what I make, joy in connecting with people through the work. There’s praise and criticism, intense activity and hours of frustration and occasional, moving glimpses of strangers falling in love with my artwork. That’s a whole pile of emotions there!

So it’s never as simple as just putting things on a wall – there’s always this emotional aspect to showing your work and I’ve gradually learned how to respond to it rather than ignore it over my years of exhibiting.

Here’s what I do when an exhibition ends

  • Say thank you to anyone who helped make it happen – I couldn’t do it without them, so I tell them they are appreciated
  • Check over works that have come back to the studio, then store them – with labels visible on the OUTSIDE of the wrap
  • Update my Artwork Archive inventory so I know where works are and should be – I could not function without this
  • Contact collectors and arrange deliveries and studio collections
  • Update my Studio News mailing list with the new people who want to hear more
  • Put all the installation images I have in one folder (I should but I don’t always)
  • Gather all the writing and documents for the show (as above)
  • Update my website exhibitions page, moving ‘current’ to ‘past’
  • For a solo show, I might make an archive page too, it’s nice to still be able to see it somewhere
  • Reflect on what worked, what didn’t, what I’ve learned and what I’ll do differently next time, and write that down where I can find it again
  • Feel a bid sad/wistful and sit somewhere comfy with a cup of tea, relax, stare out of the window and be nice to myself
  • Resist the urge to race towards the next thing, just revisit my sketchbook and see where it takes me

artist Tansy Lee Moir with her work at the end of an exhibitionAn art system

OK, I appear to have created what Alyson Stanfield has shown me is a system, so I’m putting this here to save for the next show – please save it (or share it) if it’s helpful to you too.

Of course I don’t always follow my own advice but I recommend this approach to all the regular things you do as an artist.

If I were to meet my former self, I’d tell her this…when an exhibition ends make time to rest and reflect, pause and treat yourself well.