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Exposing Yourself
A friend's question


Are you being exposed or do you expose yourself?

On one of our trips to Mexico, we were invited by our Mexican friend, Alex, to an art show in a neighbouring town. As we piled into his dusty old jeep he told us his friend, and I quote “was exposing himself for the first time.” What!! We all burst out in laughter. Then he asked me “Susan, do you ever expose yourself!” I cheekily replied, “Only on Saturdays and only to my husband.” He looked baffled. We told Alex that if you expose yourself in Canada you may be arrested. We explained to him what that meant and said that the correct phrase would be to say, “My friend is having an exhibition of his artwork.” Ah, he got it and laughed along with us. I suppose a bit was lost in translation, but if you look up exhibition, it does translate to exposure.

Sometimes I wonder about artists and all the great exposure they are being offered. As an artist, how many times have you heard that. Put your artwork up in a specific venue, as it will be good exposure. Being an artist is hard enough, without, what I feel, having some people take advantage of us.

Basically I feel like they are asking you to decorate their walls, for free! It would be the same idea if you went up to a cook in a fancy restaurant, asked him/her to come to your home and cook for a few of your friends. They wouldn’t get paid, BUT remind them that they could hand out business cards and get some good exposure. Or ask a band the same thing; ie.. come by your house and play for free, just for the ‘fabulous’ exposure. I don’t think that would go over very well. So why do they think it’s OK for fine artists?

Now having said that, there are times, that you may want to do this. Myself, I’ve hung artwork in my cousin’s internet cafe many years ago, as she was just getting started and I wanted to help out. Nothing financial ever came of it, besides free coffee, but it made me feel good and that was payment enough.

But please be cautious that you are not undervaluing your work.

I feel that in these situations, there should be some kind of arrangement that is beneficial to both parties. Other then the free exposure, what else are they offering? Perhaps if you hang your artwork in a restaurant, ask them for a few gift certificates for meals that you could give to your art patrons, so they could dine and view your work. I think that is a mutually beneficial agreement.

I remember a few years back being approached by new restaurant in the area. They asked me if I would like to hang some artwork in their new place. I responded by asking them to consider a rent to own program, for only a few $$ per month. After a couple emails back and forth, that deal quickly fell apart and months later so did the restaurant. They were also not willing to be responsible if any of my work was damaged or went missing, but they would be glad to hand out my business cards for me. That gave me a bad feeling. If it doesn’t feel right, please don’t do it! There will be other opportunities down the road.

In conclusion, dear artists, please don’t cheapen your artwork by exposing yourself!

Last Updated on: 2024-04-25