I know it doesn’t feel like we are ready yet but I think we artists need to be planning for being part of exhibitions again when the world does re-open its doors.
I have two on the horizon that I am preparing for. One is a huge, fairly slick operation run by ‘The Contemporary Art Fair’ people, which is due to take place at Sandown Park Racecourse in late September. The second is run by a local art group whose board I sit on and who hold their annual exhibition at a community hall in October.
Whilst these two exhibitions differ in terms of the physical size of the venues and the numbers of visitors anticipated, the issues involved in attending them are very similar and the current pandemic will require changes in practices, by both organizers and artists.
As exhibitors we will need to consider, this time, how much work and packaging we take into venues, in an effort to reduce the risk of contamination. If you can take your artwork into the space without packaging, particularly taped up packaging, then it is one less surface for everyone to have to worry about. For those people exhibiting at large shows, if you can unpack your artwork and leave the packaging in your vehicle you won’t then need to clean it down after removing it from the exhibition hall and again when you use it to take your work home after the show.
For the art group exhibitors, the same applies. When delivering your work to the collection table, leave the packing in your car and have antibacterial wipes on hand to clean down your artwork (and yourself) after delivering and collecting your work. Note that there are basically two types of wipes. In general, disinfectant wipes are intended for use on hard surfaces and antibacterial wipes (Wet Ones etc.) are for cleaning your skin.
I doubt very much that refreshments will be available at either of the events I am taking part in this year, so for those taking part in large shows, remember to take food and drink with you.
I normally take a couple of bags of ‘extras’ with me everywhere: information sheets about me; business cards; guest book; calculators; card paying machines; string; rubber bands; tape etc. etc. This year, however, I shall be paring this down to the absolute essentials. I will probably have the rest in a bag in my car but in the exhibition space, I will keep things to a minimum to reduce the number of things I need to clean down during the day.
At the large shows it is likely there will be arrangements such as timed entry tickets, ‘2 metre’ markings on the floor and regular cleaning of working surfaces and the toilet facilities. As for the community hall a decision about the toilet facilities has yet to be made but, as some members will be staffing the event all day, something will have to be done. Hopefully, this will be agreed at our next (online) board meeting and I will report back to you on the decisions via my monthly newsletter.
Both exhibitions have first night social events. The Contemporary Art Fair’s is called, as is the case with most such shows, a private view. Tickets to the private views are free but I am doubtful that they will be able to offer that this year. The local group doesn’t call it a private view as it is not ticketed, and everyone can just turn up. However it differs only in that food and drink is provided and served by the members, giving a more personal party feel to the evening, whereas the private view allows you one glass of wine and nibbles (if the waiters ever get as far as your stand). I doubt that will be allowable this year, though.
I expect that at both events hand sanitiser and additional face masks will be on offer, but I would advise that you have your own on your stand and you also have disposable latex or plastic (latex can cause allergic reactions in some people) gloves for your own use and that of your visitors.
I usually have a bowl of individually wrapped sweets on my stand but this year I will give that a miss and have antibacterial wipes available instead. I will keep all my paperwork in plastic folders for easy clean down and when issuing receipts, I will ensure that I am wearing gloves.
I will also prepare envelopes containing marketing materials in advance to make it easier for people. As yet I haven’t figured out a good way to present the signup sheets I have on hand for anyone wanting to join my classes or any of the groups I am involved with. I am sure I will figure that out in time!
Wrapping up sold artwork is another issue to consider. The Contemporary Art Fair has a wrapping station which we are all allowed to use. I imagine that the organisers will make sure that the bubble wrap is wiped clean before handling, they will no doubt wear gloves, and you can wipe down everything once you have it home. I expect the wrapping team will have to wear face coverings or masks and will need to clean down the surfaces on a regular basis.
I often sell small works to people at these shows and wrap them myself. This year I will need to ensure that the wrapping I use is kept clean, that I wear gloves and I will wear a mask.
At the local exhibition, artwork must remain on the walls until the exhibition is over and then a team of people wraps the works. No doubt similar procedures to The Contemporary Art Fair will need to be adopted, too. But hopefully people will be happy to take their work home unwrapped which will also go a way to help the planet too.
Fingers crossed, by the end of September, things will have reached some normality and these events will still be allowed to go ahead. I am also hopeful that visitor numbers will be reasonable, and people will want to purchase artwork.
Given the numbers of people who have visited parks, beaches and entered central London using the rail and bus networks in order to join the BLM protests, it would seem there is a large proportion of the population who feel safe mixing with other people.
I have just heard from another art fair I was due to take part in. They plan to run a version of their event in August but, in order to keep numbers low, the artists will not be allowed to be present. In my experience, half the enjoyment, for both exhibitors and potential customers, is being able to speak with the artists, understand the motives behind their work and maybe even commission work. I appreciate everyone needs to find their own new way but, personally that doesn’t work for me so I won’t be taking part.