As we near the closing date for 2015 applications the Committee begin to consider how we will select this year's show and what advice we may give to the exhibiting artists. We use our experience of our audience, what sold well in previous years and our experiences in other exhibitions.
So when this timely advice dropped into our mail box from Cranbrook Art Show supporter Bev Saunders of Edge Bespoke Picture Framers in Hythe, we decided to share it with you:
Present and Frame to increase sales of your artwork
This guide will help to give you the best opportunity for sales success during exhibition. It’s simple common sense “do’s and don’ts” about framing and exhibiting your artwork. Framing can easily be the most expensive part of mounting your show, and whilst costs can be reduced by using very inexpensive frames, remember they will look inexpensive and they will reduce the value of your work. Unless you're considering an alternative kind of presentation, budget to spend a reasonable sum on mounting and framing your work, it will pay you back in sales.
A good picture framer draws from a host of specialist skills to present your work and impress your clients. It is likely they will be asking themselves all kinds of questions such as “What do I get for my money? How good does it look? Will I get good value for money?” But often they are after something that will enhance their life, boast their achievements or add that little something to their interior, so we need to enhance your artwork to give it the best possible chance of selling. Well designed and executed picture framing will excite, inspire and reassure your client that they have chosen well, the easier you make this process the more confident your client will be in making their purchase.
Well-presented artwork is the result of experience and understanding fundamental design principles such as balance, proportion, visual weight, colour, contrast, value, shape and form; not to mention an understanding of cultural influences and trends in a number of disciplines such as, architecture, interior and even fabric design. Artwork and framing are inextricably linked to constantly changing trends and framers have to be aware of past and current inspirations, products and disciplines that are closely related to picture framing. It’s this experience that provides the confidence that result in your clients walking away having made a purchase.
Think about your favourite artwork, hopefully you can’t remember how it’s been framed. Should you be bothered? As a picture framer I would be if the frame was more memorable than the work, because the frame should merely be the window into the world you have created on the “canvas” putting your artwork “centre stage”. In the words of William Bailey "The design, must effect a transition from the existing physical location, usually a wall in a room or a gallery, into the illusionistic realm of the painting. This should occur graciously and imperceptibly. The frame should also prepare the eye and mind of the viewer to accept and embrace the domain of the painting on its own terms." In other words the presentation and the frame mediate between the viewer and the artwork drawing the gaze to the subject.
After all it’s your work we’re promoting, not the frame. Matisse described the frame as "the most important part of a picture", as a tool for presenting the work, which is why I tend to disagree with one of my favourite Architects Mackay Hugh Baille Scott, who suggests that “It must be our aim to make the picture merge into the wall surface and appear a part of it…….On a wall panelled in dark oak, for instance, dark oak becomes the best material for the picture frame in most cases.” However, he clearly recognised that the frame is a connecting link between the work, its surroundings and the viewer. Sure there is a relationship between picture frames and internal architecture and this can be exploited by a picture framer in a way that isn’t possible using “off the peg” and second-hand frames. Similarly you have the opportunity to experiment with seemingly incongruous juxtapositions of styles and materials to stunning effect.
I hope you will find the following guidelines helpful:
If you are working towards an exhibition the next phase in presenting your work is just as critical and this is where it starts to get gritty, because you are going to be subjecting your work to artistic, public and press scrutiny. It is here that your reputation can be made or broken. Take time to plan how you display your work, how you use space allocated to you. More often than not artists have no influence over their positioning within the exhibition space, nor the size and shape that is made available to them. Become familiar with your space, take or ask for the specific dimensions of your space so you can plan every last detail before delivering the work. Drawing up a plan gives you time to consider and play around with your layout and can even help you determine the type and size of work to produce. The installation process will speed up as a result allowing you time to fine tune, tweak or if necessary, successfully make significant changes. Producing more work than you need provides flexibility.
The design of the display should enhance your body of work. Fill your space taking care not to overcrowd it, the old cliché “less is more” has endured for a reason. We give breathing space to work when it’s framed, allow each piece to occupy its own exhibition space so it can be individually considered. Identify and place the signature piece then counter balance with the remainder of your collection to maintain overall unity. Consider how colour influences which pieces sit together, how each piece relates to the next, balance colour across the collection for a cohesive display.
Discreetly and professionally, display material such as business cards, promotional material, and print runs etc. ensuring written information is well produced, accurate and correctly spelt. Don’t ruin the overall look of your presentation with last minute “add-ons”; consider neat Perspex dispensers which can be easily secured to your display panels, and think about placement during the planning of your space.
So now you feel you are ready to go? You have one last opportunity to ask a fresh pair of eyes to preview your display before opening, and don’t be afraid to remove the weakest piece of work if it doesn’t sit well and is having an adverse effect on the collection, your display will only be as strong as your weakest piece.
Deep breath, shoulders back, big smile, open the doors, and good luck!