After many weeks of planning, a manic days’ worth of set-up and four days of running and invigilating; the Oddly-Fauna exhibition has come to a close.
It’s been an awesome few days running it; sure things were quite quiet, not a huge amount of people came in during the day, but those who did stayed for quite a while, asked plenty of questions and even bought lots of prints! The private view was a different matter entirely, the room was absolutely packed from open til close. The whole experience was a huge learning curve for me and one I’m incredibly glad I went through with!
Setting up the exhibition took just a day, considering the wonderful freedoms I had been given with how I wall mounted the work and what I could do with the surfaces provided. Simple picture hooks and the same little wall hooks I used for the perspex in the degree show was all that was needed! Below is a before and after of the space to give you an idea as to what I had to work with and what I did with it:
I also had the windowsill, bookshelf, small wall cavity and table I had brought from home to fill with visually pleasing things, which was easily done and ended up looking perfect.
I’d created some tiny illustrations in petri dishes prior to the exhibition as a last minute – but very successful – idea in an attempt to pull the exhibition away from ‘gallery’ and towards ‘museum’ (as previously explained in this blog post). Along with the petri dishes, I also had the brown bear humerus from the degree show that was the perfect size for the wall cavity and added yet another more tangible, museum-like element to the show. The table was filled with prints, sketchbooks and copies of Lavish, all for sale (some of which are now available online if you’re interested!). The bookshelf was easy; I just grabbed a whole pile of my own books which seemed relevant to the exhibition and put them in it. Done!
The actual day to day running of the exhibition was a piece of cake, especially since I always remembered to bring biscuits and had a storage heater for a couple of the days. As I mentioned, during the day it wasn’t hugely busy; with the road the exhibition was located on being relatively quiet and the area not being quite as artsy-fartsy as some other parts of Norwich, this wasn’t a huge surprise. But despite this, the people who did come in stayed for quite some time and nearly everybody bought a print, sketchbook or zine which was nice (and successfully covered my parking costs for each day!).
The private view, as I said about, was something very different indeed. The room was full to the brim with people, all asking questions and wandering around looking at everything they could, it was a huge success! Lots of familiar faces, many I haven’t seen in a long time, and even a few folks I’d never seen before. Something I’d do differently, however, if I were to use this venue again would be to bring along more lighting. An issue with Nunns Yard is that there is no hardwired lighting at all, just lamps and anything else you can bring along. I’d set up a few little battery spotlights as well as a couple of lamps, but certain parts of the room were dimly lit and made seeing the artwork properly and in high detail rather tricky as the evening went on. Although this wasn’t an issue raised by anybody else, I noticed the squinting eyes and people’s faces 2cm away from frames which gave me a rough indication of what the issue may be.
But despite this, the pv was a huge success, and a friend and wonderful photographer managed to capture some images of it!
With the PV a success and the everyday running of the exhibition a success, all that was left was to take it all down and think about how it had all gone…
With all the frames, leftover stock, lamps and a whole array of other misc crap in the boot of my car, my brain had time to think about the exhibition objectively rather than ‘oh god I have to run this I hope everyone likes it oh god’. For my first solo exhibition – one I’d set up, planned, designed and manually moved all the work and stuff entirely by myself – I’d say it’s been a success. It may not have been a success in terms of footfall, or actually selling framed works, or measurable, qualitative aspects such as those, but it was a success in a more vague, yet equally important, area. For fear of sounding like a stumped student, it gave me the experience, almost a similar situation to my university experience. The environment and situation I was in allowed me to build up personal and practical skills in order to make future exhibitions and/or events a success is more areas (such as financial and footfall, amongst others). If I’m honest, this is the reward I was really expecting to reap from Oddly-Fauna and I’m very glad I did. I now feel far more confident about jumping into newer, bigger and more ambitious public projects, perhaps hunting for funding to make them bigger and more ambitious? I’ve not got any concrete plans yet but I’m sure there will be more in the future!
In terms of what I could do better, the list is… extensive. But what else can one expect? It’s my first solo exhibition, I’m just pleased nothing fell off the wall or nothing set on fire! Death toll = 0, so I think it went well.
But seriously, there are a few things I’d like to focus on improving for round two.
Promotion was something I spent a lot of time and quite a bit of money on, there were flyers dispensed through town, direct invitations posted out, people emailed, tweets tweeted, social media flooded, hashtags tagged, but despite all this the daily footfall was low. This could be down to a few factors; the limited time I had to promote the exhibition (only about a month once the venue was confirmed and promotional material was produced) and the location of the venue (as previously mentioned, it was down a particularly busy street for passersby). But next time I’ll definitely be pushing promotion more than I did, focusing on sending out mailers, media packs and general promo stuff to more magazines, newspapers and blogs/websites in order to get the event seen by more people.
Interactivity was something I’d considered integrating into the event but the constraints of the venue itself sadly prevented these vague plans coming to fruition. I had hoped to have done some live drawing at the venue, perhaps papered up a wall or part of the floor and filled it, edge to edge, with anatomical and scientific goodness, but there was no wall or floor space that wouldn’t have caused a huge inconvenience to visitors. I did manage to bring some sort of interactivity to the exhibition with the petri dish illustrations. They required the viewer to put the petri dish under the magnifying glass, like a large, cartoon microscope, adding to the scientific atmosphere.
Labelling the work was something I should have done more in the public view. I had labelled all framed pieces… on the back for my reference. If somebody was interested I could then proceed to inform them of the price etc. rather than having the label there for all to see like a shop. But this gallery style approach to selling the work simply didn’t… work. So more shop elements and less gallery would work better in terms of raising some funds from the event, and anything that drags my work away from traditional galleries is ok with me.
Conservation partnerships and working with a specific conservation/relevant institution was something I’d have liked to do but simply never got round to doing. I would love to get into contact with The Ugly Animal Preservation Society and enquire as to whether they are still active and functioning both within the company and online (they seem to have fallen rather quiet lately which is a shame). If they are still up and running and active in their beliefs then I would love to discuss with them an agreement where I send them a % of all profit from the exhibition to go towards their work.
Physical specimens and more objects
But, to conclude all this nonsense, it went well, could have gone better, nothing broke, no body died, people turned up, success!