What it’s like to have a first solo exhibition

After years of waiting, I recently had my first ‘official’ solo exhibitions.
Having them was a very important step in my career and personal growth, so I thought that it could be interesting to share my experience with you.

Group shows vs solo shows

In group shows, I share the experience with the other exhibiting artists.
And even though I’m always nervous when I show my work, there’s something relaxing about group shows because I’m not the only one being highlighted.

When it comes to solo shows, you and especially your work are the centre of attention. I know this sounds silly, but I didn’t realize this until I arrived at the gallery.
As an introvert, I felt very nervous at the beginning of the opening. I thought, “Oh my God, the visitors have only come here for my work.”
When I’m in a room full of people, I don’t feel comfortable when the attention is directed at me. I know that this is at odds with my job (and talking about this contradiction would take a whole article). So, as you may have guessed, the first few minutes of the opening were quite stressful.

But this nervousness was quickly overcome when I started speaking with people. Don’t get me wrong: I always talk with the people who visit the exhibitions I participate in. It’s a way of thanking them and it’s always interesting to know how they feel about my work. Their feedback can easily make my work evolve. In fact, I believe that an artist’s work is only truly complete when it has been seen. Anyway, I digress.
What I really want to say here is that I quickly realized that being the only exhibiting artist made the discussions even more special, intimate and unique. It was as if a bubble had been created around my work and I can’t say how grateful I am for that.

Stress

I’m a person who constantly worries. I can’t help it. And my first solo exhibition caused me a lot of nervousness because of things like:

- the shipping of my images (I always worry about this, but it was even more important this time),

- what I was going to say (although I always prepare myself),

- people’s reactions (it was the first time I was going to exhibit my “Asymétrie” series while being there to talk about it with the visitors).

This stress pissed me off. I had been dreaming about this solo show for months, and the stress was changing everything.
In the end, everything went well. After a few minor incidents, my images finally arrived. I don’t think I said anything stupid (haha) and people’s feedback was pretty good!

Regarding the organization, it was no more difficult or different than for group exhibitions. It was all about talking with the gallery owner, producing/printing/framing the artworks and so on.

at the Remp-Arts Gallery

An important step

I often wondered when my first solo show would take place.
I had the impression that it would never happen.
Then, in December 2020, the board of the Remp-Arts gallery (Durban-Corbières, France) told me that they wanted to exhibit my work.
In September 2021, I was put in touch with the director of the Zwischendecke gallery (Vienna, Austria) and he immediately agreed to show my work. Receiving this news brought me so much joy. I couldn’t believe it.
I kept thinking that something was going to prevent the events from happening. It was too good to be true.

Exhibiting your work, whether in a group or solo show, is a recognition.
But having a solo show is an even more important step. It means that you have reached a stage where your work is ready to be shown on its own. Believe me, having a solo show is challenging, but it’s nothing compared to what it means.
Moreover, my first solo exhibitions perfectly coincided with a series I presented there. Indeed, my latest series (called “Asymétrie”) is a kind of analysis of the way I created some of my series between 2009 and 2019. So it was a perfect match, because both my series and the exhibitions felt like the culminations of my artistic journey.
I remember sitting in the Remp-Arts gallery, just after we had hung the photos. I was looking at them and thinking “I finally made it.”
It’s definitely an achievement, a big step for my career and for me too.
I’m more confident about my work. By believing in my work and exhibiting it, the gallery owners have shown me that what I do is valuable, and I can‘t thank them enough for that.

I don’t know when my next exhibition will be, but I’m very happy that these have happened. They have proved to me that I was right to persevere.
My first exhibition was in 2011. I graduated in 2014. My first solo exhibitions took place in 2022. So it has taken me many years to get where I am now. Yet I know that I can’t rest on my laurels. Years could go by between these solo shows and the next one, so I’m going to keep working.

So I’d like to conclude this article by saying that if you‘re an artist and you still haven’t had a solo show, keep working and persevering.
You never know what might happen :)

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Pauline Le Pichon

Pauline Le Pichon

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I’m a French visuel artist, freelance photographer, instructor and writer.