How to write an exhibition proposal for an art gallery

Yancey Richardson gallery, New York, USA. Cont...

Image via Wikipedia

The topic today may be a little different from the common grind of discussing artists and art works but I’m sure that it’s something that concerns most young artists, especially those who are still fresh from art schools.

Anything that serves the interest of art is a sound topic for the Art Explainer and so today we tackle the practicalities of writing exhibition proposals.

I am surprised to know that until now a special topics class covering the practicalities of mounting exhibitions is not taught at most art schools here in the Philippines. Unlike in my college where we have a creative writing course called CW 198 or a special topics class that teaches the young budding writer how to write scripts, copies and proposals (those writings that bring food to the table) including proposals for publication, most fine arts graduates are left to figure it all out on their own.

How to mount exhibitions is a complicated subject. Enough is said about that  but you know what’s more complicated than that?

How to create the possibility of an exhibition.

This scenario is of course not true for every artist. Sometimes you just stumble upon a gallery owner and if he likes your works then presto! The more likely scenario is that you are able to gain some prominence by winning some recognition in an art contest and you are almost immediately invited to exhibit. Others start by standing out in a series of group exhibitions until perceived as someone that has really something important to show.

The better situation is that the gallery perceives that you have something important to show after say, working on your thesis for a BFA or MFA.

But if you’re not in any of the those scenarios above or if you are in one but the stroke of luck has never struck you then you will have to work for an exhibition proposal and portfolio. Either that or some lucky uncle owns an art gallery.

Well I’m assuming you’re in the former and because I also belong in that category allow me to share  today the art of the one-page proposal in doing exhibitions.

You heard me right, “a one page proposal” technique for artists to send the message across and get in a gallery that one deserves. While the one-page proposal may sound like a myth to you, I can attest to its success and impact in many situations. I learned this when I stumbled upon a little book when I was still an intern in an ad-agency. This book was originally intended for business purposes and it is called “The One-Page Proposal: How to get your business pitch onto one persuasive page” by Patrick G. Riley.

Although the book teaches you how to create a one-page proposal, the book itself–of course– contains more than one-page. So for here and now,  I would like to give a gist of what this book means for young artists.

Basically an art proposal is structured to convince the art gallery, specifically the owner or curator about your worth as an artist. You have to let them know that your art has some artistic significance and has found its own niche in the wild variations of artists and artistic practice, and two, that your art appeals to target-viewer of the gallery. If both requirements are met a little on the side but equally important issue is if your artworks can sell–meaning if this can sustain an exhibition and return the investment of the gallery. The case is different however for independently-run art spaces and museums. Something that I wont discuss for here.

For now, we will discuss the basics of getting inducted into the roster of artists in a  commercial art gallery.

Let us take into consideration that no matter how much we idealize the production of art, in this unideal world it continues to exist as a business. There’s nothing wrong with that–in this world–if you still think there’s nothing wrong with this world or you fancy yourself in another planet.

The artists’ shot in getting the solo exhibition and become Pablo Picasso depends on two things. A badass portfolio and a load of luck. I can’t do anything about your curse or your jinx but with creating a badass portfolio, I can attest to that. Moreover, I am for bringing this badass portfolio to the 21st Century. (i.e. creating your own artist website professionally in the least cost).

How to do your portfolio correctly

The contents of your portfolio for presentation  should not include all the works done from when you were a baby until now. Although Leo Castelli might find it cute that your drawings of mickey mouse and bugs bunny are so distorted and of deranged color scheme, you can try presenting only those works which would closely resemble things you intend to exhibit. This is not a catalogue raissone and a portfolio of  your best works containing 20-30 slides or photographs is the best way to go.

Unless the sundry characteristic of your body of work is what you want to show, word of advice, focus and consistency are two things you should keep in mind. If you can’t keep that in mind then you clearly have none of it.

Photographs of your works should also show the scale and dimension. If your works are as small as a peanut or as big as the Eiffel tower, go ahead and imply this by photographing them with a referent object such as a gallery wall or having a can of peas pose beside it. Do not crop your images unless you want to emphasize detail.

For your object list take this publication format by most art books I know.

Artist name*
Title, Year
100 x 100 in / 254 x 254 cm**

*** for works in mixed-media, best practice to name all media that were included in the work. Most galleries who will decide to presell or consign your works would be concerned with the conservation of your work.
**say the size is variable if the artworks dimension changes. If it is an installation work, best practice to include the sizes of objects that are included.
*exclude if proposal is for a solo exhibition

Ideally one slide should contain a single photo of your work. Images in CD are not advisable. The best practice is to print them out on photo paper and number them with an object list. I said, images in a CD are not advisable because in many cases your CD-rom may not burn correctly or the staff in the gallery might accidentally lose it. The printed out folio is also very convenient to peruse.

Do damage control and make sure your artworks are seen in their best light. Do not submit pixelated images or poorly lighted photographs. Take your photos in natural daylight or angle and dillute the flash of your SLR camera so light won’t bounce of the works, which happens all the time with paintings done in oil and framed watercolors.

Do not decorate your portfolio with unnecessary garbage. Remember that this is not a scrapbook but a proposal for an art exhibit– a proposal for future business not different from any other.

A one-paragraph artist statement may accompany your proposal. One paragraph means not more than 300 words.

Opening Letter

Normally the opening letter is just for formality if you have had a previous acquaintance with the gallery owner or their board of directors who will read your proposal. But for formality, the opening letter should fluidly express your intention to exhibit a definite project in mind. For example, “I am submitting this exhibition proposal for a one-man painting exhibition of my latest mixed-media compositions” or “I have in here the most badass exhibition of works waiting to reveal itself to a multitude who’ll be sitting at the edge of their seats, banging their heads on the wall at the sight of my wonderfully, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious sculptures.”

A typical opening remark would be “Warm greetings!”. The salutations are typically, “Sincerely Yours,” “For your consideration” and the timeless, short and sweet closing sentence which i personally use: “All the best”.

sculpture Figure découpée (1965) by Pablo Pica...

Image via Wikipedia

The format of your letter is business type. In other words, do not beat around the bush.

The Exhibition proposal proper

Since this is not an exhibition proposal for a museum, the exhibition brief should contain not more than 150 words of useful explanations for each of these sections

2. Brief description of the project (its concept and how the space will be used)

3. Curatorial brief (if you have a curator, otherwise don’t write this)

4. CV of artist or exhibition proponent and of curator (again if you have a curator).

For reference, check out Bea Camacho’s CV here.

5. Logistical requirements

Exhibition space being readied for a show at t...

Image via Wikipedia

6. Source of funding or division of cost

7. Proposal for collateral activities

8. Contact details

Phone, email and reference to an online portfolio.

Before i forget your images should have arrows at the back indicating the top especially in the case of abstractions and conceptual drawings.


Use a slide clear folder in black or clear plastic bind. If the proposal is mailed use a brown envelope.


Websites serve as a convenient accompaniment to your exhibition proposal. You can build one in under 2, 000 pesos using several free templates and programs on the internet. To consult about this for free, email me at and I will send you more detailed tips on how to make your own winning artist website.

Artists like Leon Ferrari turn to a simple program running on javascript and clean html  called indexhibit. Indexhibit is nice because it doesnt use flash which can really be annoying sometimes. Remember that in any website, especially in an artist website, content is king. Your main pages should at least include the following. Profile (CV), Press/ News page, a Works page and a Feedback mechanism.

You may choose to further sort out your works page by exhibition, medium or series.

Check out this website by Rodel Tapaya. It is an excellent example of a functioning artist website that is up-to-date with its visitors.

If you have the resources, websites are a good investment for the professional artist but sites like multiply will do for those who have a tight budget. In that case, a website also shows how serious you are with your intent to show. Just be careful about posting too much information about yourself.

Other matters

Most of my artist friends ask me for help to write their exhibition proposals and I am also familiar with what curators want to know and see on your proposal and things that they get annoyed of although I do not claim to be an expert.

Well basically, they get annoyed with pale and uninteresting art.

Disclaimer though, I have not tried these proposals for my own purposes and there are times when most of my proposals for group exhibitions get turned down or don’t receive a reply at all. But out of these proposals, I can say that the one-page proposal has served me well in at least five different exhibitions, including one at a museum. Also don’t be impatient about launching your career right away. The art career is a long distance run according to Napoleon Abueva and those who last a long time doing their art is the greatest of all artists. Grandma Moses whose painting career began in her seventies after abandoning a career in embroidery because of arthritis, is the classic example that the art spirit can hit you at any age. Some artists like Nicolas de Stael, Robert Motherwell and Robert Rauschenberg only launched their careers after a series of rejections from galleries. But I wont mention here that De Stael killed himself at the height of his career at baka madiscourage pa kayo.

On top of this, never mind the rejection, what is important is that you know what you want and you know how to get it. According to Silvana Diaz of Galeria Duemila, “The more bohemian of you may think its structure(the proposal and paperwork), but its structure that gets the job done.” You can read the rest of her article here.

So its either you wait until someone notices you in the high heavens which may not come at the time and place that you expect or you start cleaning up and doing the proposal and portfolio right. Of course there is no single right way to do it.

I can not agree more with Mrs. Diaz and I hope that her article and this explanation helps a lot of artists express their desire to exhibit professionally. If given the opportunity, I would like to share my thoughts and experiences in proposing for exhibits not only in galleries but also in public parks, malls, school buildings, galleries and also in museums. Its not for bragging since most of the things I will share are mistakes that I did as an amateur (I still am now). But my belief as a writer aside from being an artist is that there is no bad painting that can’t be beautified by a little piece of good writing. Although, frankly, the text can only do so much. When its out there in the safari, your works will have to speak for themselves.

As for the art scene I think that only through a set standard of opportunities to propose and exhibit can we level the playing field for all deserving artists. In order to achieve this, we have to start by teaching our young artists how to propose an exhibit professionally. It may sound a little too business-like for you but what is the art scene anyway but a pretty little shiny dynamic of production and marketing. (Just kidding).

Try to feel which galleries suit you best. There are some galleries that accept artists only by invitation (but then how do you get yourself invited? maybe next time I’ll cook up an answer) and there are also those who have made a terrific job of making the careers of many artists starting from when they were still unknowns. Go ahead and propose to a gallery if you think they accept proposals but if they don’t then well, you can still take a shot.

My favorite story is one by Robert Rauschenberg. I don’t know if this is true or not because I haven’t actually read any publications that support this. But in an interview he said that while still a young artist in New York he would go to different galleries and just bring his paintings and see if they are any good with the gallery. After knocking on several doors he was finally given a chance by a kind lady named Betty Parsons of the Betty Parsons Gallery, who would go down in art history as very important persona in the boom of American Modern Art. As for Rauschenberg, we all know what happened to him. As the story goes, Rauschenberg came often to Betty Parsons when he was new still new in town and then one day decided to bring his paintings up there without permission. Upon seeing Robert Rauschenberg, Betty Parsons told him “Well, I only look at paintings on a Tuesday.”

It was a Monday. So Rauschenberg retorted “Could you at least pretend that it’s a Tuesday?”

Betty Parsons replied, “Well, alright.”

Rauschenberg’s first one-man show was hailed by critics as an “eccentric and prophetic show of pictures.” Prophetic because it catapulted him into international fame. He would give rise to a new movement in art: the neo-dada which is credited today for making pop-art possible among many other things.

See this video below for the entire story:

If I have any advice to my fellows, it would also be an advice to myself: concentrate first on your work and pour your hearts out in giving only the best for your exhibitions. Hans Hoffman had his first solo exhibition at 65, Barnett Newman at 44, and Willem de Kooning at 45. So why hurry? In order to be great one must prepare to become great.

If by any chance you need help proposing to a gallery or to your fiancee…then Benny heavens! The Art Explainer is here to help.

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151 thoughts on “How to write an exhibition proposal for an art gallery

  1. Helen

    please email me a template for an exhibition proposal… I have never done this before and am willing to take the plaunge and give it a go… Thanks. Happy days. Helen

  2. Yolande Bennett

    Hi there, this is incredibly helpful, thank you! I am writing a proposal for my Honours course which I have to do a presentation on and submit it formally also.

    Could you please send me a typical template also (for paintings relating to technology/globalisation)..

    best to you,

    1. Lela Britton

      Thank you for all the great information! I would love to see your templates. Could you send some, please?


    Amazing/Fantabulous Article! But I am still so clueless……
    Could you kindly share the templates to look at?

    Min Kim Park

  4. Foofer

    Thank you for your article! We are students from London university and this is going to be our first exhibition. If you could send me a template that’d be very helpful!
    Thank you!

  5. Julie Hendy

    A fantastic article, very informative and exactly what I am looking for right now. Please could you email me a copy of the template?

    Many thanks!


  6. Nakia Howze

    Great article, but I would like more information. So could you please send me a copy of the template!!

    Thanks for your help!!

  7. Karina Nishi Marcus

    This was also the information I was searching for this morning. I would also love to have a copy of the template sent to me.

    Thank you in advance! I am now going to look at more of your website

    Karina Nishi Marcus

  8. Elena

    Your article is amazing, just what i was looking for. Please email me a template for an exhibition proposal and i ll be more than thankful.


  9. Abdulmajid Hjyahya

    I had never write any proposal for an art exibition. Recently I’am ask to write on by agroup of artis. the above help alot. Hoping If you could sent me a review template might help me more. Thank You.

  10. Larry Jones

    Fantastic info. I was told last night to send an proposal to this gallery and I said to myself, self what the heck is in a art proposal what am I to say ? The first sight I came to was yours thank’s for takeing time to teach and help others . And may I also have a copy of the proposal template Thank You SO SO MUCH

    1. Cedric

      Wonderful article! I really hate to sound like everybody else…But I don’t think I have a choice here, since I’m in the same boat.
      I am approaching major galleries as well and that would be very helpful if I can have a look at one of your template of proposals. This will be very much appreciated.
      Best regards,

  11. ina

    great and inspiring article :) i loved the part where you calmed us down by pointing out the ages of the first solo expos :)

  12. Patricia

    Very nice and helpful article and video. Thank you for easing my thoughts. I am very excited about writing a proposal and starting to show. Can you please send me the proposal template. I would also appreciate any information you can send on free templates and programs on the internet to start a website. Many many thanks!

  13. Nafisa Riyaz

    hey can u please send me the template as i am having my first solo exhibition and i have never come up with such a writing of proposal..please help me.!!!thank you

  14. Describing Things

    I chanced upon this article while searching for online resources for art exhibit proposals. I am currently helping a friend create one for an upcoming exhibit in Manila. I would really appreciate it if you can email me the proposal template just to make sure I’m doing everything right. Your article has been very helpful so far.

    Thank you so much.

  15. miska

    love this blog, however could send me the template i would like to make exhibition for my father in abroad..thank you

  16. Karin

    Thank you for the article. I would love to read an example of a proposal. Could you send me a template?
    Many Thanks,

  17. mina

    Thank you for the article. This is very helpful… If you do not mind, could you send an example of a proposal, please. Thank you.

  18. Micheline Zezula

    I am in a simular positon as the 50 or more students and artists before me- a template would be great as i have to write a proposal for my Art History class and would love an idea of what a professional proposal reads like?

  19. Cecilia Castro Art

    Great article and advice. I am currently at university studying BVA in ceramics. I read your line where it says ‘concentrate first on your work and pour your hearts out in giving only the best for your exhibitions’ and it leaves me thinking…

    I came here because I am writing an exhibition proposal but I don’t want to leave uni without having some group shows under my belt. Now what do I do? Ok, not to worry. I go back to uni next week and it will keep me occupy and I might hold off the proposals. Thank you once again for the great article.

  20. Nishta

    Very useful, could you please send me a copy of the template and links for building website. Thanks , Cheers

  21. Kirti Mandir

    I have to send proposal to Birmingham Museum and Warwick Art Gallery for my solo exhibition. I would be very much obliged if you could please send me a example of exhibition proposal

  22. claudia

    Thank you so much for this!
    We would love to have a template for a collection we are working on…thanks so very, much!

    Claudia & Sergio

  23. Mariz Nieves

    I had never write any proposal for an art exhibition. Recently I am ask to write on for a Fine Art Exhibition of Foundation University, Dumaguete, Philippines. The information help alot. Hoping If you could sent me a review template might help me more. Thank You.

  24. Mike Papesch

    Hi there, thanks for this article. We are writing an exhibition proposal for our medically related art project. We would be most greatful if you could forward us a template for an art exhibtion. Kind regards, Mike Papesch

  25. Kellie Chasse (@KellieLynnArt)

    So here I am at the age of 43 and In the past year had the courage to show my work and then started selling it. I am looking at new possibilities and would love to see your template. I am hungry for any information! Thanks so much for sharing.

  26. Paula Wirfel

    Hi, I appreciate the guidance that your article provides in writing an exhibition proposal. I am not an artist but a writer. I was recently asked by an artist to do a proposal for her. I was hoping that I could get you to send me a copy of the template you mentioned. I think it would be a big help in helping me to understand how an exhibition proposal differs from a project proposal written for other types of business. My artist seems to be a little clueless about what the proposal entails so any help I can get would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  27. Alana

    I am trying to get my first solo exhibition since I was in a co-op and had a guaranteed solo show. Please send me your template. Cheers.

  28. carolina

    I want to announce an artist, I have never done this work but I trust in his artistic value ¿could you send me a template of proposals?
    Thank you
    All the best
    Carolina Belmar

  29. daria wilber

    Hello Jun, Thank you so much for this informative post. I am working on my first show and would really appreciate a copy of the template. Salamat! daria

  30. Lily Bonesso

    This was so helpful. I need to write a proposal as the curator of a group show. I don’t know how different that would need to be from an individual artists proposal but I would really appreciate it if I could look at your template!


    “The artists’ shot in getting the solo exhibition and become Pablo Picasso depends on two things. A badass portfolio and a load of luck.”

    Oh yes But you seem to have left out two of Major requirements. Those are, BE WHITE and lastly to BE FEMALE. And there you have it Presto! You’re in! However, if you are not White and or female. You will not be granted many opportunities to present your work. No matter how many credits you have or how nice your art is. Also I would like to say that a ‘Thesis’ or an MBA in ‘Art’, does not equal Artist. I do not know who is pushing this concept that only those who have attended art school or those who hold an advance degree are ‘allowed’ to be artist. This is utter bullshit! and very elitist and Racist. The art world is rampant with racism and bias. Especially in the west. A nice degree is excellent if you would like to teach art I guess. Though for those who Create Art, there is no greater experience than living the life of an artist. Not sitting behind a desk and working as a historian or some museum worker. Everything is so backwards these days. Does a ‘degree’ make a person a musician? Only bullshit like this would come from the mouth of some woman who feels elevated as a result of some phony degree. Fuck your degree!



    I AM an Artist and I have a known reputation internationally. I still think art degrees are bullshit! and so are you! You give some gallery owner or museum all of the power by begging them to ‘accept’ your work. Fuck them. Art is about communication and taking it to the people. Recognition comes from who you inspire not whose boots you can lick.

    1. adaleung

      Love your article, it was one of the first useful site I came across. Thanks for taking time to teach and help others as well, it’s great to see how generous people are. And may I also have a copy of the proposal template, it would help me so much in writing my own. Thank you so much!!!

  33. lunga poho


    I enjoyed reading your article, very informative & inspiring too. Please may you send mre a template of gallery proposal.

    All the best,


  34. ruth

    hi, i would like to exhibit my hubby’s artworks, thank you very much for sharing this with us. but would you be kind enough to send me a sample of a proposal template.

  35. Yashar Ismailoglu

    I will be grateful if you could email me the template. I am asked by Alevi Cultural Centre to put proposals to St Martins in the Field at Trafalger Sq to put up an art exhibition/ 44 oli paintings.
    yashar Ismailoglu
    2nd March 2013

  36. Gavin Mayhew

    Hi there. Thanks for the article. I have to submit a proposal including costing for an exhibition and would really appreciate your proposal template. Thanks. Gavin

  37. Roxanne reynolds

    Really great to find such advice!! Please email me a proposal template as soon as you can!
    Many Thanks


    thank you for your information! I would love a template for writing a proposal, greatly appreciated!!

  39. sinem

    Dear Jun Cristobal,
    Thank you so much for spending time to help artists.There are many webpages for those issues but all are usually so simple and you are explaning the things more deep.I am very happy that I found your webpage and I really need help.I am so confused with the applications and I know that good application is very important.I need to write a cover letter,artist statement and a proposal for exhibition and I need your help.Could you please send me some samples about these issues as well, All the best SinemBaykal

  40. Krishni

    What a great information which I looking for. Would you please email me a template of the proposal?

    Thank you very much
    Best of you


  41. Richard Vechi

    Good article. I want to give it a shot, and have the opportunity to show my work in a museum, but they want a written proposal, so I would like your proposal templates.
    Thanks Much,

  42. Jessica C.

    Thank you for this informative and inspiring article.  Please send a copy of your suggested proposal templates. Again thank you for helping all the struggling starving artists, who are like me and are not the best at writing proposals. :)

  43. Pingback: Writing a Proposal | Jasmine Smith

  44. Vivian Low

    Amazing! I would like more information. So could you please send me a copy of the template!!

    Thanks you!

  45. Gunay

    Hello! Big thanks to you! That is an amazing article for those who don’t know how to write an art project proposal as me! Please send me those templates too! I need them very urgently cause im gonna apply for a fellowship program! waiting for your email!!!

  46. Halcogeth

    Reblogged this on Halcogeth's Blog and commented:
    I typed into google and got what I was hoping to find, and not just adverts. I wasn’t expecting that.
    This post looks very useful for my own artist proposal. I wonder if the blogger ever posted a template. I’ll have to look through the rest of the blog, and definitely go through this post again in more detail.

  47. Anastasiya

    Many thanks for your help!It is really important to find so useful information. Especially for beginner artist.Would you please email me a template of the proposal? Thank you very much!!

  48. Randi Ruud


    I came across an RFQ for a student art exhibit funded by the TEA in Austin that requires a formal proposal. Do u have any experience working with government funded projects and could u plz send me examples of proposals?

    Thank u

  49. Carroll Lee

    Thank you very much for your most helpful information. I would greatly appreciate your emailing me a template of the proposal. Thank you.

  50. Gascone

    Thank you so much. I really appreciate this amazing article! I want to represent an artist and I had never write any proposal for an art exhibition. Please, could you email me a copy of the template? And if you have a template for “Exhibiting artist on consignment” (for hotels, restaurants, foundations, etc.) it would be greatly appreciated,
    Thank you and all the best!

  51. Nicholas Farai Jaji

    Thank you for such helpful information ,it helps me grow as an artist . I would really appreciate if you can send me the * template proposal *


  52. darren

    could you send me the template for proposals? And any website information. I am taking a professional practices course and this is one of the submissions for the course so any help would be appricated.

  53. Jingyin Chen

    Hi! It’s such a lovely and amazing article. Thank you so much! I am so worried about writing an exhibition proposal and it helps me a lot. I’m so glad that there is an art explainer like you in this world… Can you send me the template please???

  54. Pingback: How to Write a Curatorial Proposal | Popular Question & Answer

  55. gino

    The article helped a lot thank you, would it be possible for you to send me the template you mentioned for the exhibition proposal paper? thank you

  56. oriola emmanuel bidemi

    What a great idea. You have come a long way and an aid to people’s lineage.
    Please e-mail me Sample of a Business Exhibition Proposal.
    Thank you.
    From: Mr. Oriola.

  57. Travis

    Hello, thank you for the great article! I was told to never bring artwork into a gallery without an appointment because it doesn’t allow the gallerist to give an authentic response: they’ll feel obligated to compliment you. Could you please send me the template for an exhibition proposal?
    Thank you

  58. Pingback: Proposal research | No Name as of Yet

  59. Linda Westmoreland

    Thank you very very much, I have been an artist all my life, it was never a choice. At 57 I am now free of children and ready to create and exhibit my sculptures. Your information is exactly what I was looking for. You are amazing!

  60. elly

    thank you for posting this, i am at the moment wrting a proposal and would also like i you could email your template, thanking you.


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