Welcome back to our series: Behind the Scenes of A Solo Art Show. In this third part of the series, we’ll be talking about “Artwork Layout”. When I say “Artwork Layout“, I mean how the artwork will be hanging on the wall spaces that we have available to us. At this point, we have planned out the main elements of the show, we have curated the artwork we want to be in the show based on our chosen theme. Now, we want to move on to how to arrange the artwork on the walls.
Measure The Wall Space
In order to do this, we need to measure the wall space first. Measuring the wall space is important for you to know how many pieces of work you need to fill that space. If you’re creating new work for the show, this is a critical part of what you need to do. It not only determines how many pieces you need for the show but also how fast you need to work to be able to create enough work in time for the show. Even if you’re showing existing work, artwork layout still remains an important step in getting your show ready. Because you need to know how many of the pieces will make it in the show.
When you measure the total wall space available in the location, remember that not all that space will be usable for your artwork layout. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when calculating your usable wall space.
- Artwork must be laid out at eye level. So any space above or beneath eye level is not usable. And you must subtract it from the total wall space.
- Each piece of artwork must be given its own space so that it can be easily appreciated by the viewer. You don’t want patrons to be encroaching on the space of other patrons who are viewing nearby work. Nor do you want your artwork to be so close to each other that when they’re being viewed, the adjacent artwork is also right there in your face.
Draw Artwork Layout on Paper
So keeping these things in mind, calculate how much actual usable space you have. Then, draw the wall spaces on a piece of paper to figure out how you’re going to lay out your artwork. If you’ve got 3 walls to use, show the three walls on the paper. In many cases, you’ll not be able to go do a trial run of hanging the work before the actual show nor will you even want to go through the entire process even if you have access to the place. What you’re guaranteed of being able to have access to, is the paper drawing of your desired artwork layout. So make the most use of it.
Now arrange the pieces of work you selected in the curating phase on your paper drawing of your artwork layout. Remember to leave breathing room between the art pieces. A rule of thumb is to leave several inches of spaces between each piece of work. Alternatively, you can use your body frame to estimate. Measure the width from one of your shoulders to the other and this will be the space between pieces. This should leave enough room for free movement by patrons viewing your artwork.
More Than One Show May Emerge
If you’re using existing work, you might find that you have enough work to create two or more shows based on your theme and wall space restrictions. In that case, you’ll be faced with a decision to make. When that happens, choose the best of the two or three sets of curated work you’ve got available to show. If on the other hand, you don’t have enough work, your paper layout will make this very obvious. And then, you can get to work creating more work. Whatever be the case, I cannot overstate the benefits of planning.
In conclusion, I want to say that you’ll be working back and forth between the various planning phases. You’ll not get completely done with one phase and then move on to the other. You’ll keep tweaking as you go and that’s all part of the process.
Finally, I’ve got to say nothing beats actual installation. Drawing the artwork layout and working back and forth from your drawing is all necessary for planning. But the actual gallery space or event location has a character of its own. So when you get to installation day, be open to making a few more location-specific tweaks to ensure your solo show is a success.
What do you think will be most daunting for you about laying out your artwork for your solo show?
You may also be interested in the other titles in this series:
1: Planning for Your Solo Show
2: Curating Your Solo Show
3: Laying out Your Artwork
4: How to Promote Yor Solo Show
5: How to Write a Press Release
6: Installing/ Hanging Your Art Show
7. Opening Reception