Over the years, I have shown my artwork at a number of alternative spaces, including hair salons, coffee shops, and corporate settings. One year, I had eight different shows at different venues. As I continued to grow as an artist, I had an art representative, showed at a gallery, participated in group shows with my printmaking salon, and had private studio sales.
My personal experience showing my work in alternative spaces has mostly been positive, although it feels like a lot of effort and expense when nothing sells. I think if you are early in your career and have a very affordable price point, this can indeed be a way of getting some of that “exposure” that people think is so valuable, and you can probably sell some work, at that. I have been fortunate enough to have sold work at these venues, and have not had anything damaged or stolen (until recently, which has prompted this post). As with any time when you share your misfortune with others, you can expect to get some not very helpful advice, since the event has already happened. Like when you have the biggest cold sore of your life and you are supposed to have a date the following day and well meaning friends ask you about your diet and tell you to take Lysine, which you already knew about but don’t take because cold sores are such a rare event. . . So hopefully you are reading this post before you have agreed to show your artwork at ANY venue. Do yourself a favor and ask if they will insure your artwork while it is in their establishment. Take digital photos the day the show is hung. Document the condition of the work being submitted, as well as the number of pieces. Know in advance what action will be taken if your work is damaged. If the answer to that question is not satisfactory, do not hang your work there.
I have always operated in a more casual way than I have just recommended, mostly without incident. It has worked well for me, but now that my prices are higher and I invest more in the framing and mounting of my prints, I feel more protective of them and will only allow my work to be shown if I am compensated or guaranteed reimbursement should anything go wrong. I am attaching a link to another blog on this topic. The commentary is extensive and includes both pros and cons. Well worth reading if you plan to show in an alternative venue.