It's normal to get frustrated when you think about marketing your own art, but the truth is, promoting your own exhibitions isn’t that hard. It just takes time. This article, first in a two-part series, will break down one important aspect of marketing for artists: promoting your show to newspapers, magazines and blogs with a well-thought-out gallery listing.
An art gallery listing is the informational document that is sent to print and online publications to announce the details of an exhibition. It is a good idea to go to gallery websites and look at the art gallery listings they post about their shows. Below is an example of a typical art gallery listing from Columbia College Chicago, whose campus houses a number of professional galleries. We’ll go through each part of the listing, step by step.
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Headline: Using the Columbia College Chicago example, notice not only the words in the body of the content, but the headline, “Exhibition Explores the Scruffier Side of Printmaking.” The headline of this art gallery listing (shown below) distinguishes this exhibition from other printmaking shows. Ask yourself how your show is different. How does it distinguish itself amonth the countless art exhibitions out there? Also, think like a reporter. What would the headline for your exhibition be if you saw it in Art In America?
Deck: In the example of the printmaking show, the deck (shown below) states the obvious. Don’t get fancy. Remember, you’re feeding this information to listings editors. They just want to know what the show is.
What: State up front that “(Title of show) is an art exhibition that features…”. Or, as in the Columbia College example, the writer has listed the eccentric names of the artists to attract attention and noted that they are “Brooklyn-based artists.” You’d be surprised at the number of listings I’ve seen where I couldn’t figure out if something was an art exhibition or a fire sale. State in the first line exactly what you are promoting.
One pitfall of novice listings writers is that they tend to embellish the first paragraph with big, descriptive words that make the show sound important, but don’t provide any facts about the show. Don’t try to get into any deep discussion of the show’s concepts and conundrums. Be brief and concise. Tell readers exactly what they are going to see. You will want the steak in the first paragraph. In the second paragraph, you can add a bit of sizzle.
When, Where, Cost, Information, Contact Information: These sections must all follow the same format. Go ahead and use the format example of the Columbia College printmaking show. Make sure that the contact person is either yourself or another interested party who can be relied upon to call a reporter back immediately.
How Long: The art gallery listing should be no longer than two, possible three, informative and brief paragraphs that are no longer than four sentences each. If an editor is intrigued by the basic exhibition information, they can pursue the details later.
Include Appropriate Images: Choose an image that will still look good (and be legible) even if it’s printed in a 1”x1” format. Listings pages usually print everything really small. Make the image a high-resolution .jpg that is no larger than 1MB. You want to be able to email this image to reporters without crashing their system.
Check Your Work: Have another person look at the listing to make sure it is correct, clear and easy to understand. Check it once, check it twice and check it again. Then, go ahead and send it out.
In Part 2 of this series on marketing for artists, you’ll learn where and when to send your gallery listing and, most importantly, how to get people to attend your show.