How to Organize a Paste-up Show

How to Organize a Paste-up Show

Exhibition opportunities are often few and far between for artists.

Sure, galleries might do open calls; similarly, there might be open calls for festivals. Alternatively, you might approach a publisher or self-publish a photo book. The biggest hurdle with many of these is managing expectations between the various stakeholders.

What Is a Paste-up Show? And How Do You Put on Your Own Show?

One alternative avenue to exhibit work you may not have considered is a paste-up exhibition. To clarify, a paste-up is not graffiti. Graffiti is when someone’s property is marked or defaced without their permission.

So, what is a paste-up exactly, and how does it work with photography? Well, for starters, as with most things in life, this is best done in groups. Many hands make lighter work, or in this case, many hands make smaller portions of fees. The more people you have, the less each person has to pay.

Next, with a paste-up, you seek permission from stakeholders involved. For example, you might seek permission from the local government or from a store or business who may have a free wall available. Alternatively, you may consider renting a billboard, ideally one low to the ground.

You may be thinking that this sounds pricey! Well, the trick is to find a location that is low traffic or already allows for public artworks. Billboards or space rental with lower foot traffic, may be as little as $200-$300 a month. Bargain!

Once you have curated a selection of artists and a suitable location, you pretty much just organize for opening night. For example, a few of my friends who are part of an artists' collective contacted local business within the area to sponsor catering and even some drinks. What sponsors may get out of this is a small space on the advertising or perhaps a promise for promoters to use their venue as the designated place to go to after the show. In the latter case, they have a captured audience of patrons who will purchase food and drink there.

A paste-up show has a very 'grassroots' and 'can-do' method of showing work. If you are in Australia, you might consider Emerging Artists Collective's next show on March 18th, 2023 and 6pm at Collingwood, at 2/133-135 Johnston Street.

The final piece of this puzzle is, of course, opening night. Everyone involved should bring themselves, at least one plus one, and a good attitude. If you invite curators, arts workers, or individuals aligned with arts institutions to your show, it may be a good way to show your work to industry professionals. Seeing work printed within a public-facing context is a great feeling, and a paste-up show is just one way to do that.


This is, of course, a very shorthand account of what to do. Get a group, get a place, put on a show (with help from locals). As with managing any large project, giving yourself enough time and researching further what to do or how to do it is key. As you may infer, your local government laws of what is possible or what is available in your town or city may vary.

Images provided by Emerging Artists Collective. Used with permission.

Ali Choudhry's picture

Ali Choudhry is a photographer in Australia. His photographic practice aims to explore the relationship with the self, between the other, and the world. Through use of minimalist compositions and selective use of color and form he aims to invoke what he calls the "breath". He is currently working towards a BA (Honours) in Photography.

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This is an interesting idea. I think for it to be successful, the entire paste up needs to be large, concise, and easy to read from a distance so people know what it is. Maybe a few large images with a QR code to follow you on instagram or something like that. It's an interesting concept though

For transparency, I know the folks in EAC and they organized the first one of these during COVID when there wasn't a possibility to congregate safely or legally indoors. In that sense, it was a way to do something; but they're doing more and more of these and it kind of is a really different way to show work. I guess it's hard to tell from the images but some of those in the billboard on the article are nearly A3 (11.7 in x 16.5 in); big enough to see from a distance but really are meant to be viewed by foot traffic. Also one of the reasons finding a 'billboard' which is very low to the ground or at ground level is ideal!

Oh, and they also had QR codes to their own site which had more info on each artist! For example: