Where Can You Exhibit Your Work? – Alternative Art Spaces

By in Art And Culture


With the price of gallery space at an all-time high, space of any kind being at a premium and opportunities to exhibit within the arts dwindling fast, it is important to think outside the box and diversify. This post looks at alternative art spaces which have proven successful in the past.

I knew a woman once; an artist. She was, for all intents and purposes, an artist who wasn’t represented by a gallery, worked from home in her conservatory and never seemed to partake in part-time work like every other artist I knew. She lived off of her art for years just waiting to sell another canvas to her select clientele. Or that is at least what I was led to believe.

At this point the story could veer wildly off course into a sinister and twisted tale, but I will keep it truthful and stick to the art world. This particular artist didn’t wait tables or slog away in the cloakrooms of national museums to buy second rate paints and raw canvas – she sent email after email to find every available square inch of wall space, every patch of ground space and every snippet of press space. Beady eyes from all walks of life were set upon her paintings: patients in hospitals; newlyweds searching for the perfect bed; proud parents of amateur (and overly dramatic) theatre students; half-drunk winers and diners paying for oceans of port on company expense cards. Like all great artists, her life became her work and her work her life. And like all great art, hers was one that weaved itself into the fabric of the lives of others.


Yes, there are cafes dedicated to the display of local, trendy art sects that want to lure you in with black and white photography only to flog you vegan open sandwiches; but there are more authentic bare brick locations than you think. Locally run coffee shops, pubs with real publicans and arty artisan sandwich restaurants are all accepting of art submissions. These places (along with fixed geared bike shops and craft beer emporiums) are on trend now and they all want something different to set themselves apart – make your work just that thing. Get your name out there, garner a local following and put a price on the bottom of it all.

High street big shots

This adapted friend of mine, with characteristic audacity and – let’s face it – outright nerve, had the savvy to seek out smaller high street chains and contact them directly. Bed sales companies (or any type of homeware company for that matter) have to market their product correctly, broaden the appeal to the everyman and sell the ideal home in their catalogue and website. These are the type of companies who employ small town geniuses to adorn their (albeit fake and temporary) walls, either in store or on shoot. Never be afraid to chase after the big man. The bigger they are, the slower they run.

(Sorry to say it, but…) A picture speaks a thousand words

There are those of us that lose themselves in books, those that fall into art and many more who bridge the two. You would be shocked at the acceptance publicly owned spaces offer artists. Universities, those hubs of culture, are not only hugely influential but can be easily influenced; they have a lot of space to fill and their libraries are a great place to start contacting. What use is a huge public foyer without some hugely appealing public art? Arts centres (the smaller the better) have an invested interest in local talent so contact these spaces. And be brash: walk in and ask to speak to someone, the chances are that a person in a position to make a decision is kicking about somewhere round the back.

And finally, the more understated options

As increasingly fictionalised as she may be, this friend of mine’s most memorable social enterprise came in the form of a gift bestowed to the nation: donated paintings to the NHS. Each and every hospital owned by you and me has a duty to serve their patients, you, me, friends, family, and art enthusiasts. If you think your work would benefit the well-being of patients or your practice could contribute to the benefit of those in care then get in contact through the NHS or read more about it.

6 comments for “Where Can You Exhibit Your Work? – Alternative Art Spaces


August 26, 2015 at 5:32 am


I am from Latvia. I am looking for an opportunity to sell my paintings in Europe. I would be glad for the opportunity to participate in an exhibition or sell my paintings with an art gallery help.
I rejoice for any information!

Have a nice day, Anda

Robert Dutton

September 2, 2015 at 7:25 pm

Hi Jack, All very highly commendable advise but serious artists still pursue the gallery recognition and regular acceptance for their work to be displayed in the top quality ‘named’ galleries. Why? Mind set of the buyer. You go to a coffee shop, pub, restaurant etc. drink and eat and not to buy paintings. The biggest successes for me have been galleries, direct sales, open studios, mixed exhibitions from hired space – not public eating and drinking places. Think about it £500 + on a painting in a coffee shop to the same on show in a top class gallery with a browser actively looking for a special painting. I rest my case. Galleries are needed and right now need active support from their artists to do their bit more than ever. Good luck to all who exhibit in the coffee shops though. Robert

Adriana Mazza

Adriana Mazza

September 3, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Hi Robert, These alternatives may not suit all artists, but they provide opportunities for some when a gallery space isn’t an option. Glad to hear you found avenues that have brought you success!


June 2, 2016 at 2:26 pm

I have wondered what happens in the case of stolen or damaged art when hanging in a business. Is their insurance available for this?

Jack Smurthwaite

June 6, 2016 at 9:32 pm

Hi Jan, thanks for getting in contact. You should always talk to the owners about their policy and, if possible, sign some sort of contract. If you want to take things a little more seriously or you think you will exhibit more often, you can take out artist insurance (PPL) for damage to galleries/businesses and artworks in transit. One-off exhibition insurance covers your artwork if you want to go the whole hog. More information can be found here. I hope this helps. Jack.


October 7, 2016 at 6:51 am

Cafes are the good option to display your arts and get sales. Most of the people go to cafes for entertainment and displaying your product there will definitely attract them. I have seen that some artists set up their booths in trade shows as well. Some of the exhibitions are especially for artists.

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