Online Art Exhibitions: are they an artist career builder worth doing more?

Everyone recognises that being spotted in the right art exhibition can be life-changing.

In this post, I’m going to cover how to decide if an online art exhibition is worth doing. You’ll learn to be savvier with the opportunities out there and get the best return on your time for the shows you’re in.

During the pandemic online shows sprung up as an alternative to the bricks and mortar, in a way that had not been seen previously. From Artist Support Pledge on Instagram to Andy Warhol at the Tate, the digital show is here to stay.

Online shows can be as awesome as physical ones. Both types of art exhibition allow for serendipitous collaborations to emerge. The backbone of an artist’s business is showing work. Exhibitions often leads to other opportunities, shows and sales.

Where does the online exhibition fit in?

Participating in multiple shows, shipping works, and promoting exhibitions can become a costly time-consuming process. This is especially true for artists in remote locations (like Shetland). The online art exhibition is an attractive alternative. All you need are some outstanding artwork photos and an internet connection.

But… before you sit back on the sofa and open that sales champagne bottle…

celebration champagne in bed after selling work from online art show
Selling artwork while you sleep… Image from Shutterstock

There are a shocking number of unscrupulous people out there. Sadly, the tale of young artists being exploited by ‘fake’ galleries is all too familiar. This seems to be especially true with online only opportunities.

What does this mean for you?

Before you sign up ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is there a fee to participate?
  2. Who is selecting it?
  3. Are you happy to be affiliated with the organisers?
  4. Which other artists are taking part?
  5. Is the artwork for sale?
  6. What are the prizes and awards?
  7. Who is marketing the show?
  8. Will this opportunity build my art career?
  9. How long will the artwork be there?
  10. Does this compliment a physical exhibition?

Is there a fee to participate?

In my post on submitting to Open Art Exhibitions I’ve talked about reasonable and unreasonable fees. For online shows be even more careful with your money! If an organiser is charging you £45 to display your artwork online for one week, only to do the same to another artist next week and the week after that…they’re earning their keep through exploiting artists.

Read the Terms & Conditions. Make sure you retain the reproduction rights to your artwork and that the organisers are only allowed to use the images to promote the show. If you don’t check the T&Cs your prized artwork could end up a stock image with someone else claiming the royalties. Check for exclusivity clauses too, make sure the work can still be exhibited elsewhere (physically or digitally).

Selecting an online show, young woman with tablet in room of artwork
Who is selecting and organising the show? Image from Shutterstock

Who is selecting the art exhibition?

Do some research on this online art exhibition. Who is judging it? Is the selection panel affiliated to the organisation i.e., the owners of the website where it’s hosted? Do they have any art world experience or connections? Do you respect these people? Do you trust this person? If you cannot find out who is selecting the show run for the hills.

Are you happy to be affiliated with the organisers?

So, you’re happy with the entry process, you respect the selectors…check out the organisers.

Think about where the opportunity was listed. If you found the opportunity a trusted source such as Parker Harris you can be confident that it is a legitimate, career boosting opportunity. A DM from a stranger might need a bit more investigating 😊

Look at the organisers’ website and make sure there are no nasties. Do a bit of Google research on them. Look for their physical address, telephone number and company or organisation registration details. Think twice before sending money or artwork to anyone who can only be contacted via email. 

How often are the online exhibitions run? The higher the number of shows the less likely that you’ll get good press coverage or organiser attention. Looking at their past exhibitions to ensure you’re happy displaying your artwork in that context.

Selfie artists at an art show celebrating artist connection through online exhibitions
Find your selfie tribe. Image from Shutterstock

Which other artists are taking part?

This can be a hard question to answer, as most artists don’t advertise what they’re applying to before being selected. To see who is likely to be involved look back on previous years. Who was in it last year? What are the other artists doing now? Be sassy about it, if you have a connection with another artist listed there already reach out to them and ask about their experience. Ask a mentor about this opportunity or pose the question on social media if you’re unsure.

Something to be wary of is the fee to enter guaranteed place online exhibition. You’re giving money to have your work displayed on someone else’s website with no way to police the quality of the content.

If you’re thinking, “The other artists are amazing! This is the perfect fit for my work” it’s time to Go For It!

You can expand your network, create new artist colleagues, and discover artwork you love all from the comfort of your sofa.

female artist packing artwork to buyer from online art exhibition. brown paper wrapping and pink ribbon
Packing and posting artworks needs to be factored in if you’re responsible for shipping to buyers. Image from Shutterstock

Is the artwork for sale?

Online sales of artwork are a fantastic way to keep your shop open 24/7 to customers from all over the world. Typically, online sales commission is lower than bricks and mortar gallery commissions.

Artwork buyers are reliant on the image accuracy. It’s essential that submission photography is an accurate representation of the artwork.

You can read my article on the importance of great pictures here.

Check what happens if you make a sale. Generally online exhibitions expect artists to ship work directly to buyers. Some online exhibitions will expect Post and Packing (P&P) to be included in the artwork sales price, others will add the P&P.

Verify that the price you’ll receive after commission and shipping doesn’t leave you out of pocket.

What are the prizes and awards?

Prizes and awards can make online exhibitions very attractive. Imagine winning a big money prize on the back of an online show, all that cash and no costs! Sometimes the prize is a physical exhibition of the winning works, for example the Jacksons’ Painting Prize shows winners at the Affordable Art Fair as well as offering cash prizes. This offers double exposure for the lucky artists.

Who is marketing the show?

You want to celebrate your amazing artwork at every opportunity, right?

Done well online art exhibitions are an inexpensive way to back up you own social media and website marketing plan. Shout about your involvement. As with all shows, many voices amplify the message.

Check if the organisers are running any print articles about the show, or if the marketing is all via social media.

Think who you are targeting with the online exhibition. Is it to make sales (in which case there cannot be enough marketing!) or is it to connect with an artist peer community via sharing an online space together? Both are valid reasons to take part in an online show.

Artist talking to another artist via laptop during online art exhibition
Online art exhibitions can be a great way for artists to connect with one another. Image from Canva

Will this opportunity build my art career?

It’s eye-opening to ask ourselves this question. Sometimes, receiving an acceptance is so validating we don’t really ask if it’s a members club we want to join.

Think about what this online exhibition offers you. If your goal is to make more sales 24/7 choose an online exhibition with a strong sales history.

If the online exhibition is targeting towards artist peer collaboration and your goal is to connect to likeminded artist, it’s a match!

However, if your goal is sales and the target viewers are not buyers, this won’t help build your art career.

How will you profit from this? I don’t mean financially (although that would be nice!), the right show can yield new connections to artists you admire as well as generating publicity for your own artwork.

How long will the artwork be there?

Is the work going to be showing for a week, a fortnight…forever? The shorter the show the better the marketing burst beforehand needs to be to generate interest. Equally exhibitions that run for too long cause you audience to switch off. Check that the online exhibition has an end point. You don’t want the nightmare of being unable to enter it into other exhibitions because of a never ending online show.

Online art exhibition of photography displayed on iPad. Glamourous pink fingernails swiping
How long will your artwork be available to view or buy online? Image from Canva

Does this compliment a physical exhibition?

Online shows can be as sensational as bricks and mortar. A post-pandemic trend, which I really love, is using online art exhibitions to compliment physical shows. It gives viewers a chance to go home and look at works again, share artwork via social media and think over purchases. It’s the best of both worlds, with an access option for people who can’t make it, 24/7 sales opportunities and no additional costs.

We’ve covered the monetary and time-saving perks of online art exhibitions, how to protect yourself from the scammers and the pertinent questions to ask before signing up. I hope this has helped to understand the dynamic behind online showing opportunities and given you new focus for what to take part in.

Let me know how you get on and what online shows you’ve got coming up, you can catch me in Drawing Online until March 2023 or via Instagram.


Drawing Together Online Exhibition

Working artists in rural areas insight article Gaada: Plugging the Gap | News & Press | Scottish Art News | Fleming collection

About – Artist Support Pledge

Andy Warhol | Tate

Artist Opportunities – Parker Harris

Jackson’s Painting Prize – Jackson’s Art Supplies annual competition (

Other people have written about this topic extensively, below are a few articles for a wider reading context, I am in no way affiliated with these other authors so am including purely from interest:

Are Virtual Art Exhibitions Any Good? | Brian Parker (

The Many Benefits of Online Art Exhibitions for Artists (

Will the increase of online exhibitions kill the physical gallery? | Art | The Guardian

Art Exhibitions & Competitions – Art Business Info. for Artists


Sign up for free and be the first to get notified about updates.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: