Exhibitions present the ultimate artistic experience

Knowledge Mushowe Art Zone
These days most people are particularly concerned about bread and butter issues. How then can visual artists make money in an environment where art is clearly not as important as food, security and shelter? They cannot afford to sit back and wait for the potential customers to come to them. Instead, it makes more sense for the visual artists to bring the art to the community so that they increase the chances of selling their work.

The three major objectives of any artist when turning professional are; building a reputation, gaining experience and making a living out of the practice. Planning and executing an exhibition ensures that the visual artist ticks all three boxes. An artist can make a name for themselves before, during and after an exhibition. Firstly, the media helps to publicise the event and bring information about the artist and his artworks to thousands if not millions of readers.

Even though the majority of the readers do not make it to the actual exhibition, being a known visual artist has its advantages in the long run. Secondly, inviting people to view his artworks creates a platform for the artist and art lovers to interact and consequently raise the profile of the former. The artist can also gain valuable experience because exhibitions are not only product selling events.

Planning, much like what brides and grooms do when preparing for a wedding is very much a part of pre-exhibition activities. On the day of the exhibition, the visual artist also gains loads of experience as he puts the products on show in their specific contexts. An artist’s experience is usually misconstrued to be only related to the design process and the execution of the final product. It is in fact, the entire package, including interaction will all relevant stakeholders.

Visual artists ultimately have to make some money and bringing the art to the people raises the potential for sales. Exhibitions are not cheap. The artist has to invest in the project with the hope of recouping the money spent through sales. Because there are no guarantees, the whole exercise is a risk, but a risk worth taking nonetheless.

On average, visual artists spend in excess of $500 on a successful exhibition. Creating, mounting and transporting artworks accounts for the biggest part of the budget while food, entertainment and venue costs should be factored in as well. The final pricing of the artworks must consider all these add-ons.

In academic circles, exhibition is a significant part of the learning curve. Chinhoyi University of Technology art students for example, are required, in their final year, to successfully curate an exhibition that features a selection of their work for the entire programme.

The exercise equips the final year students with the necessary expertise to initiate them into the art and design world by taking them through a real life art exhibition. This means that upon graduation, students are not only accomplished artists, but have critically gained the know-how of how to present and, by extension, sell their artworks.

Exhibition also equips the final year students with curatorial skills that helps them properly present and market their works. Curating is a vital tool for artists as it helps them plan, organise, manage and evaluate their art. It also aids the artists to become all round creative individuals that create profession personal portfolios that form the basis of future engagement between themselves and the community around them.

Exhibition at university level also gives the students an opportunity to showcase work to the community, relevant stakeholders in the art and design world, and to prospective employers and customers. And when so many stakeholders come together to view and possibly buy artworks, the artists has the perfect opportunity to also sell a brand, not just the products.

Tapfuma Gutsa, Dominic Benhura and Masimba Hwati are well known Zimbabwean brand in part because they presented both their work and themselves to the general public frequently. A known brand has a greater chance of being noticed in times when in times when people are less worried about aesthetics, creativity and artistic expressions.

The current economic situation calls for aggressive, holistic and creative marketing approaches for everyone in business. For artists, their works are not up on many priority lists. It is therefore vital that artists bring their works to the people rather than wait for the customer to come to them. Exhibitions may be a little expensive to organise but the fruits of taking that risk are abundant in the long run.

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