Open house festivals are an increasingly popular way of showing work by emerging and amateur artists – get started with our guide
With their steely facades and minimal interiors, art galleries can be intimidating places. In Glasgow, the city’s artists have started doing things differently. Every year, during the Glasgow Open House art festival, they transform their bedrooms, hallways and sitting rooms into mini galleries, inviting members of the public to come inside and explore art in a very different setting. It’s easier than you might think to put on an exhibition in your own home – here’s how to do it.
What to exhibit
This could be anything from your kids’ artwork, paintings made at a life drawing class, or holiday snaps that have been amassing in your cupboards. Context is key – in other words, it isn’t only what you show, but how you show it. A box of old photographs might not be interesting in their own right, but put up on a bedroom wall they could be.
If your home is particularly busy-looking then why not embrace this by hanging your show in the style of the old salon exhibitions, filling every available inch of wall and floor space with your drawings, paintings and sculptures? No need to rearrange furniture or make fussy curatorial decisions.
Or use part of your home for a performance piece by creating a theatrical, immersive environment for your guests. For GOH’15, artists Elke Finkenauer and Natalie Doyle have come up with an idea they call Awkmo. They plan to turn their hallway into an awkward “holding pen” for visitors, to recreate that uncomfortable feeling being stuck in a lift with strangers.
Choose your space
If you want to go all out, remove all the furniture from your designated gallery space and paint the walls white and the floor a neutral colour such as grey. Be guided by your home’s architectural features and furniture when installing artworks. An unusual staircase or a window ledge can trigger great ideas for positioning your art.
You could also use your home as a canvas. This year, Glasgow-based artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd will paint, print and collage directly onto her walls and ceilings.
Who should you invite?
For emerging artists who are attempting to get their work out there, hosting an exhibition at home is a great way to bypass gallery bureaucracy and maintain momentum after leaving art school. Invite friends, acquaintances, the press and the public – the more the merrier.
If you’re not ready for that, sticking to friends and family at first will give you the freedom to experiment, and it’s a good way to build confidence.
Promoting your exhibition
Host an exhibition preview with plenty of refreshments. Previews are as much about socialising as they are about the art, so entice people to your show with the promise of a good time and a free drink. A Friday night at 7pm is ideal.
Attract the right crowd by distributing posters or flyers to independent shops, bars, cafes or art galleries. Include details for your website, Facebook or Twitter page so that people can share with their friends. Seek out writers who might be prepared to promote your show on their blog or website.
If you’re nervous about a large turnout, but want to attract visitors outside your inner circle, enlist the help of friends, family and useful contacts to get the word out. Send out email invitations or make a Facebook event page.
Think about the logistics
Prepare for an exhibition the way you would for a party. Remove valuables and delicate objects from spaces where people will gather. Where possible, lock the doors to rooms not in use (except the bathroom!). Buy in extra supplies such as loo roll, plastic cups, snacks and refreshments.
You will have to invigilate your exhibition to make sure no one damages/steals the art, and this can become tiresome after three or four hours. Arrange for help, or make your show accessible by being “appointment only” after your preview.
If you’re opening your show to the public, consider getting public liability insurance. And remember that inviting the public into your home brings with it far more concerns and responsibilities. A-n is a fantastic resource for artists, and they offer advice about this on their website a-n.co.uk.
For photos, prints or paintings opt for natural light and choose the airiest, lightest room in your home.
For a straightforward hang, your eyelevel should roughly meet the middle of the picture. Using only one nail can save time and ensures that paintings hang straight.
Tack, Velcro, bulldog clips or fine pins are all useful for displaying delicate artworks.
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