Top 10 List | Creating Professional(!) Art & Photography Exhibitions | Part 2

Our Top 10 List: 
Creating Professional(!) Art & Photography Exhibitions



Hello again, folks!

Here it is, Part 2 of our series of blogs on our Top 10 List of PROFESSIONAL steps (that you can accomplish YOURSELF!) to get your work where it needs to be BEFORE / DURING / & AFTER any big art or photography exhibitions you’re in, whether you’re exhibiting one piece—or a hundred!

And, as mentioned in Part 1 (please click here to get there), your end result in all this? 

FINE EXHIBITION and a FINISHED, “READY-TO-SHOW-AROUND” PORTFOLIO to get you into that next show / to get that next big sale / perhaps even to get you that new job!

So, first a really quick review:

Part 1 / Our Top 10 List: Creating Professional(!) Art & Photography Exhibitions

(Please click here to get there.)

          1.  Select your work for art & photography exhibitions / start making “NOISE” about it!

          2.  Select the BEST mat board color & thickness / measure your artwork / mount your stuff

          3.  Select the type & color of frame(s) that will best ENHANCE your work

          4.  Order mats / frames / & glazing (& interleaving / bags / boxes – see Part 2 of this blog series)

          5.  Assemble mats & frames


Part 2 / Our Top 10 List: Creating Professional(!) Art & Photography Exhibitions

(You’re here now.)


          6.  “Choreograph” the exhibition space (if ya can!)

          7.  Hang your work (perfect example of “not reinventing the wheel”)

          8.  Opening night! – dos & don’ts

          9.  Taking down the show at the end of the run / frame disassembly

        10.  Storing & reusing materials / assembling your portfolio(!)



OK then, let’s pick up right where we left off in Part 1….




6. “Choreograph” the Exhibition Space (if ya can!)



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An exhibition on the National Parks, recently held at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York. WHERE images get hung, and WHAT images are next to each other, is NEVER left to chance. There are highly strategic concepts that go into how such shows are mounted – one image “informs” the other; one image “leads into” the other, stuff like that. Think about that when choreographing YOUR OWN work or YOUR OWN show! (Please click on the image for more information on the George Eastman Museum’s Photography Collections.)

OK, so sometimes you have the “responsibility” of hanging your own work (and by “responsibility” I really mean OPPORTUNITY!), and other times this will be handled by the curator, organizer or installer of any art or photography exhibitions you’re in.

If YOU have the chance to “choreograph” where your work is going / what images you can hang next to each other (to enhance BOTH of them, etc.) then TAKE IT, even if it means volunteering to help mount the entire show.

This will give you the opportunity to “dance” (thus the term “choreography”) your work around the space to get a sense of where it might be best suited and showcased.

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Ok folks, let’s say, for a moment, that I’m a curator (cuz, well, I sort of am), and I’m in charge of hanging the three pix above in 
one of my photography exhibitions. If I have NO info from the artist on “which pix should be next to which pix,” I’m just gonna
exercise my curatorial license and hang them the way I think they look best. Now look at these same images below, which is a
much “stronger” / more “cohesive” sequence of these three pix. If YOU have the chance to choreograph your own work, take it!

(Please click on any image to see our full blog on the work of photographer David Moog, who created these insightful portraits.)

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If you don’t have any say in WHERE things will be hung (and you usually won’t, frankly), at least MAKE SURE that you pleasantly communicate to the powers-that-be (curators / organizers / installers) that “THIS pix should be next to THAT pix, if possible.”

Remember that the phrase “if possible” is a REQUIRED nicety—as ya don’t want to come across as a demanding prima donna—and using that phrase will often get you EXACTLY what you want, especially if ya write it on the back of a $20 bill (just kidding, folks).

KEY HACK: Speaking of prima donnas, don’t ever be “that person” who complains—either loudly or in behind-the-scenes whispers— about where your work ended up. Curators know what they’re doing, and all sorts of considerations go into choreographing a show. Just be happy that you’re IN the show!





7.  Hang Your Work (a perfect example of “not reinventing the wheel”)



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See the tools at the bottom of the left-hand pix? With a hammer, level, tape measure, pencil, ladder (for adjusting lights),
Post-It Notes (for identifying pieces ahead of attaching “official” labels, see pix on right), you’re off to the races! Mess up a
couple of times with where you placed your picture hanger? No problem, as the framed work will cover the holes (you can patch
’em later). With some hands-on experience, trial-&-error, & help from gallery staff, you’ll know EXACTLY what to do going forward.
(Please click on either image for more information.)



As a former gallery director I can tell ya, folks, that there isn’t much out there that is worse than a badly hung show. Yet most art & photography exhibitions worth being a part of WILL have an experienced curator or gallery installer who knows what he/she is doing, so don’t sweat it too much.



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Repeat after me: “The picture hanging hook is my friend. The picture hanging hook is my friend.” Yeah, a lot of people are intimidated by this little doohickey, and yet its importance is HUGE. If one of these things is in your future it can only mean ONE thing: YOU’RE IN A SHOW! (Please click on the image for more information.)



If, on the other hand, YOU’RE in charge of hanging your own work, make sure you do it right!

Space things out in a logical and proportional way by CAREFULLY (so as not to dink up the walls or your frames!) leaning your work against the wall while you’re “choreographing” things—moving things around to achieve their greatest VISUAL and THEMATIC impact.

Next, learn—sometimes by trial-and-error and sometimes by simply asking someone at the gallery—just WHERE to place your picture hanging hooks. The “modern” hooks like the one pictured above (which is actually a specialized “locking” Safety Hanger that keeps people from making off with your work) have really thin nails, which means you won’t be cratering the gallery wall if ya have to pull it out and move it around a bit. Remember that you can also often adjust the wire on the back of the frame, so you actually have all sorts of adjustment latitude when hanging your work.

After a few experiences of actually hanging your own stuff you’ll get the hang of it (no pun intended)—it will go faster, it will look nicer, etc.



photography exhibitions
Some stuff is easy to hang, and some stuff is harder (like getting a perfect grid! – helpful hint: hang the BOTTOM images FIRST). Ya know what makes the “hard” stuff “easy,” though? PRACTICE! And that comes from being proactive in your search for opportunities to hang stuff – see hack below. (Please click on this image from the George Eastman Museum for the full story on their Photography Collections.)



As a true-to-life example, the first exhibition I ever choreographed and hung took me two-and-a-half DAYS to hang something like 26 framed pieces. Seven years, and 50+ shows later, it took me two-and-a-half HOURS to hang 50 framed works. Same thing will happen to you!

And WHERE did I learn to do all this stuff? Simple, actually: on-the-job-training! Shows had to go up, and I was responsible (yeah, YIKES!).

So how do YOU get that experience? Well, DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL (see hack below)!

KEY HACK: Getting experience hanging everything from single pieces of your own work all the way up to entire exhibitions is usually not a problem. Just hang out with whomever is in charge at the gallery you’re exhibiting in (or would like to exhibit in) and observe what they’re doing. Take notes / ask questions (while staying out of their way!) / & perhaps most importantly, VOLUNTEER TO HELP OUT. Sure, you might get asked to take out the trash or vacuum the floor before the opening, but ALL OF US have had to pay THOSE dues at one point or another, and you’ll learn what’s what by hanging around haunting the place—always observing to “see how it all gets done.”



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OK, so ya volunteered at your school or local gallery. You’re hanging out, observing procedures, stuff like that. Then you run across THIS. Yeah, it’s the proverbial “gallery cart” with the “gallery toolbox.” Perfect opportunity! You should know EVERY TOOL & GADGET in this box – like, just WHAT IS a burnishing bone? If ya don’t know, ask! Wanna be a big help? Volunteer to organize this thing. Boom! – hands-on familiarity with the tools within, and ya did the gallery a favor. (Please click on the image for more information.)





8.  Opening Night!



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Yup, it’s opening night! It’s often a wonderful chance to connect, swap war stories, share observations about the work on exhibit, get inspired…


Take a stack of business cards (you can print ’em up yourself these days) or gallery show announcements, and ALWAYS have a pen or two (to write down contact info re: people ya meet), etc.



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Opening night! Celebrate and enjoy, but “know when to say when.” ‘Nuff said.


So, I don’t mean to throw a bucket of cold water on the well-earned celebrations and festivities, but a word of caution, folks….

KEY HACK: Yeah, um, don’t “celebrate” too much. You’ll only regret it later. You’ve worked hard to get your stuff into whatever art or photography exhibitions you’re a part of, and you want everyone’s memory of the evening to be positive and pleasant, so “moderation” is the name off the game. As a former gallery director, and as an exhibiting artist myself, you can trust me on that one folks, and we’ll just leave it at that.





9.  Taking Down the Show at the End of the Run / Frame Disassembly



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Yup, all good things must come to an end, including the art & photography exhibitions you’re in.



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As mentioned in Part 1 of this 2-part blog, both metal and Gallery 12 Wood Frames are REUSABLE! Retreive your work from the gallery
(don’t forget to thank the powers-that-be!), and get it home or back to the studio and disassemble everything. Why the haste, you ask?
Well, your frames need to be stored correctly, and your matted work from the art & photography exhibitions you’ve been in is ALL SET
to become part of your portfolio (see below). Remember that while your frames ARE reusable, they WON’T BE if they get all doinked up!
(Please click on either image for more information.)



When you go to the gallery to pick up your work, make it a habit to get it home or back to your studio and deal with it ASAP. In other words, don’t let it just sit around collecting dust, possibly getting kicked, or broken, or any number of other disasters that could befall it.

You’ll want to do this for TWO reasons:


     1. You’ll want your artwork or photographs (and their mats!) to stay as nice as possible,
          cuz they’re now ready for your portfolio!

     2. You’ll want the same for your frames, which can be reused over and over again,
          but ONLY if ya take care of them!



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Wrap your metal frame sections together with interleaving tissue or paper between each frame leg so that they
don’t scratch. The 16 x 20 x 3″ Metal Edge Drop Front Box on the bottom in the pix on the right is marked “Frames,”
as these boxes are PERFECT for safely storing disassembled frames for future use, all in one convenient location.
(Please click on either image for more information.)



KEY HACK: When a show ends, the gallery staff or show organizers will take the exhibition down on it’s appointed day. They’ll also let artists know—usually well in advance—of just WHEN they should come in and pick up their work. Do yourself a favor and DON’T BE “that person” who doesn’t bother to show up to retrieve their work in a timely fashion. As mentioned, I was a gallery director for years and years, and there’s always SOMEONE who pulls that crap. It’s gotten to the point where some galleries will either charge you for storage, or keep the work for thirty days and then either sell it to whomever will buy it, give it away, or chuck it out. Hey, by participating in the show you agreed to certain guidelines. Make sure YOU hold up YOUR end of the bargain and go get your stuff!





10.  Storing & Reusing Materials / Assembling Your Portfolio(!)



photography exhibitions
So, let’s pretend for a minute that this 8×10″ frame held a piece that was recently in a couple of photography exhibitions (it wasn’t, but let’s pretend). The last show ended and I now have TWO things to do: disassemble and carefully store the frame / glass / backing board / hardware; and put the print into an elegant portfolio box for both long-term archival storage AND to show around at my next appointment with yet another gallery director. (Please click on the image for more information.)



Ok, ok, I know I’ve said it over and over (and over!), but I WAS a gallery director for a good number of years, and in all that time one of the things that made our exhibitions ALWAYS “look professional” and at the same time ALWAYS “easy to switch out” was the fact that we used the SAME frames / glazing / backing boards / hardware over and over (and over!) again.

Sure, we had a A LOT of frames for this purpose, usually standard pre-cut sizes like 11×14″ / 16×20″ / 20×24″ / etc., but as mentioned above we TOOK CARE OF THEM!

I can’t stress this enough, folks!

Yup, we had the “added one-time expense” (it wasn’t that much, actually) of purchasing additional 11×14″ / 16×20″ / 20×24″ 3-inch deep Metal Edge Drop Front Boxes in which to store these disassembled frames when not in use (see the pix in Step 9 above), but BECAUSE WE DID we got years and years out of those frames.



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Uncle Albert sez: “Ya don’t have to be Einstein to know that taking care of your investment IS an investment.”



Do the math, folks: purchasing some economical workhorse drop front boxes for storage, or re-purchasing new frames all the time?

‘Nuff said.

As mentioned, we did the same with our backing boards / frame hardware / glazing / EVERYTHING. If you want a gallery to go broke in a hurry, just make it buy new frames for every show it puts on.

The same applies to YOU!

Take care of your exhibition materials, cuz if you follow everything I’ve said in Part 1 & Part 2 of this series of blogs, you’re gonna be in a LOT MORE SHOWS!



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Yes, folks, off the wall, out of its frame, and into a portfolio box! Hey, it’s already
matted, mounted, and ready to be either archivally stored / shown / or BOTH!

(Please click on each image for more information.)



The second half of the “reuse everything” equation that is EVEN MORE IMPORTANT, though, is what you do with your now-matted piece from whatever art or photography exhibitions you’ve been in.

Yeah, I’m talking about your PORTFOLIO!

If any particular pieces “made the grade”—from your own initial edits when deciding on what to submit to art or photography exhibitions / to acceptance in the show / to actual exhibition—well then those pieces automatically qualify for inclusion in your portfolio!



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Left to right: Onyx Portfolio Boxes come with white or black acid-free linings / Museum Drop Front Boxes are the answer for
larger matted and unmatted works / 1.5-inch white or black Drop Front Boxes are both economical and way cool. All of these
hand-made boxes, as well as other options described here, are 100% archival; often come in a host of sizes and depths; and are
PERFECT for both acid-free storage AND elegant presentations. Show up at your next appointment with one of THESE and they’ll KNOW you’re serious!
(Please click on each image for more information.)



So, ya know how I squawked about getting your framed work home from the show when it closes and taking it apart to preserve the frame?

Well, now it’s all about the ART!



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Got REALLY LARGE stuff coming back from your art or photography exhibitions that needs a cool (& archivally safe!) portfolio? Yeah, this is another example of a Museum Drop Front Box. It can handle some of your largest stuff! (Please click on the image for more information.)



Take your work out of its exhibition frame and place it directly into a Portfolio Box / Museum Drop Front Box / or to save a few $$$ (and yet STILL have an attractive and professional-looking portfolio that’s 100% archival) place it in a white or black Metal Edge Drop Front Box (see pix above).



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Is your stuff from your art or photography exhibitions going into “storage” instead of your “portfolio?” Well, here are the steps for THAT, too.
1. your stuff is on the wall—being greatly admired—during whatever art or photography exhibitions you’re in
2. the work comes down and is disassembled – frames / backing board / glazing / hardware gets safely stored
3. archival tissue or paper is placed over your work on the INSIDE of the mat / perhaps your mats are also placed in archival bags
4. the matted piece is placed in an archival box of your choosing, and there are a lot of choices to be had!
5. (no pix) you’re a happy camper cuz everything was done RIGHT, and is ready for your NEXT art or photography exhibitions!
And, BTW, your portfolios should NEVER be stored in attics or basements, as they can be damaged by heat / humidity / leaky roofs & pipes!

(Please click on each image for more information.)



Need even MORE ideas, then check out this blog for a quick, fully-illustrated survey of ALL SORTS of portfolio options:


Your Professional Portfolio / Part 3 / Portfolio Boxes, Cases, Folios


BOOM! You and your work are on your way!





So, THAT’S IT, folks!

As mentioned at the end of Part 1 of this two blog series (click here to go directly there), at the end of the day, after reading and practicing EVERYTHING in both Part 1 & Part 2, you’ve accomplished a bunch of stuff—most of which you’ve done YOURSELF (& saved a ton of $$$ by doing so!)—including:


      Your work in art & photography exhibitions looks PROFESSIONALLY matted & framed

      Your art & photography is presented in ways that GREATLY ENHANCE the work (and it’s ALL ARCHIVAL!!!)

      Your newly-matted work is now the basis of your portfolio for FUTURE EXHIBITIONS & OPPORTUNITIES!


All of us here at Archival Methods want to wish you the greatest success in whatever art & photography exhibitions you find yourself in, and please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions!

Best of luck, and go out there and DO THINGS RIGHT!



Contact Us

If you have any additional questions on preserving your old photos and anything else in your collection, or would you like more information on any of our museum-quality archival storage and presentation materials, please contact us here at Archival Methods. We’re always there to help with any archiving, storage, or presentation questions you may have.

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