Everything you need to know to stage your first independent art show in Singapore
Are you an aspiring artist struggling to make a name for yourself in Singapore?
Do you wish to share your art with the public and network with interested buyers?
In recent years, local artists have started taking more independent initiative to promoting their art with the help of social media or personal portfolio sites. While going digital allows artists to reach larger audiences than ever before, there is still an undeniable sense of achievement in staging a physical art exhibition that online presence, for all its perks, cannot offer.
Why hold a physical show?
Most often, holding your first exhibition is a vital rite of passage in your career as an artist. Seeing your art displayed in a professional, dedicated setting not only gives you immense gratification, it also aids in the promotion of your work in the long run and acts as a stepping stone to bigger projects in the future.
For one, it helps put a face to your name, which allows you to establish closer connections with potential buyers and art collectors. People are more likely to remember fondly and revisit works if they feel like they know the artist and story behind the art they are purchasing. Of course, seeing your works up close and in person is without a doubt far more impactful than scrolling through photos on a screen.
How to get started
Staging an independent art show can sound incredibly daunting to any artist, especially first-timers who are not represented by a gallery. To help you figure out what you need to get started, we’ve compiled a list of things you need to consider when preparing to hold your first exhibition.
Preparing your works
Before you start looking for gallery spaces, it’s important to know what you are looking for. Consider your body of work: how many works are you looking to exhibit? Do you have enough pieces to stage an independent show, or are you more comfortable teaming up with other emerging artists in a group show?
In general, solo art exhibitions feature anywhere between 10 to 50 works, depending on the size of the exhibition space. While a sparse exhibition might not look the most promising, it’s also counter-productive to mindlessly showcase every piece of work you have ever done. You are your biggest critic — look through your portfolio and decide which works are worthy of exhibiting, how much you wish to price them, and which are better off hung on your studio wall.
2. Choosing a space
You have many options when it comes to deciding the location of your first exhibition. Ideally, the space you choose should fulfil the following aspects:
Your space should be easily accessible to the public and preferably located around the main art districts in Singapore, such Bras Basah, Bencoolen and Dhoby Ghaut, as these areas boast higher walk-in rates.
What is your budget? Galleries in Singapore can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a day so make sure you carry out the appropriate research before dropping in for a recce. Some galleries have hidden costs for set-up and logistics, which can result in a shocking final bill.
- Services provided
Do not underestimate the set-up and publicity costs for spaces that do not offer an all-inclusive package. On the other hand, galleries that provide complimentary additional services can do wonders for your exhibition and take so much stress off your plate.
For instance, Visual Arts Centre provides complimentary promotional services by broadcasting their upcoming exhibitions to a database of art lovers, collectors and high profile art patrons. Additional things you can look out for are whether the galleries are able to offer you discounted rates for catering and printing services (for your promotional materials).
Of course, higher profile galleries tend to garner more attention from the media, which can be extremely beneficial for your exhibition.
3. Creating promotional material
For an art exhibition to be successful, you need to spread the word to reach your target audience. How you wish to publicise your exhibition is entirely up to you. If budget is an issue, an online campaign utilising various social media platforms is perfect, as it allows you to reach a large number of people within a short span of time. However if you have more cash to splurge, professionally printed invitations and posters are a more polished and direct way to reach your specific audience.
Many exhibiting artists like to have nice brochures on hand so that interested visitors have something to ponder over after they leave. If you do not have the resources to create elaborate handouts, a simple name card is always a fool-proof way to remind people of your exhibition.
4. Setting a date
A fair bit of planning is required in staging an exhibition, especially if you have little to no guidance from experienced professionals. You should start looking at venues at least 3 months prior to your desired exhibition date, but we typically recommend that you set aside 6 moths to comfortably accommodate any potential hiccups in the planning process. You want your exhibition to go as smoothly as possible, so start planning as early as you can.
Do all these sound a little too straining on the wallet of an aspiring artist? Fret not — Singapore’s ongoing push for development in the Arts has resulted in many avenues that readily lend a hand to artists looking to expand their practice. Here are some options you can consider if you are running on a tight budget:
- National Arts Council (NAC)
NAC offers many grants to artists, including a Presentation and Participation Grant that is particularly generous. Individuals can hope to receive up to 50% of a realistic budget, capped at $50,000 per financial year for each applicant. View the full list of grants offered here.
- Tote Board
The Tote Board Arts Fund supports artists and arts companies that produce good quality performances and exhibitions for the enjoyment and edification of Singaporeans. View their grants here.
- Lee Foundation
While there are no official grants for supporting the Arts, the Lee Foundation is known to provide funding for promising artists as a way of giving back to the society. You could contact their information centre through email for more details on the different forms of support they offer.
- Working with charity organisations
While working with charity organisations as beneficiaries might not sound the most profitable, such organisations often have very wealthy and well-connected patrons who wish to give back to the community through acquiring works of art. In collaborating with charities, artists are able to quickly gain access to local art buyers and make a name for themselves, all for a good cause.
- Group exhibitions
If you know of fellow artists who similarly wish to exhibit their works to the public, a good idea would be to collaborate in holding a group art show. This is especially helpful for smaller artists who have yet to amass a large enough body of works to hold solo exhibitions. More artists would also likely garner more interest in the art community and boost visitor rates.
We hope this article has helped you gain a better understanding of what it takes to hold your very first art exhibition. Having a space to display your best works is the first step to putting yourself out there and the best way to meet admirers of your art or even potential long-term collectors.
Located in Dhoby Ghaut – the Arts & Heritage precinct, Visual Arts Centre houses an Exhibition Gallery and Studio that is open for hire at affordable rates to individuals and groups. As a dedicated art space for international and local exhibitions of art and design, we provide an array of complimentary services and a team of friendly, reliable staff to guide you every step of the way.
With our fully equipped exhibition gallery and a large following of eager art enthusiasts, every exhibition held at the Visual Arts Centre is guaranteed to be a smooth-sailing success. If you are an artist looking for a gallery to host your first exhibition, you can count on us for a beautiful space, unwavering support from our committed staff and unbeatable rates.
For more information on our gallery and services, you may wish to view this page here.