Exhibiting abroad—a story about why you should do your homework!

August 2021

Who among us wouldn’t be flattered to be invited to exhibit in an international botanical art exhibition? I certainly was. And I readily agreed to participate.

I’d exhibited outside Canada before in Bermuda, the US, the UK, Australia, and South Africa, but never in Italy, which is where the invitation in question came from. As usual, I did my homework and was encouraged to find that some well-known and highly-respected international botanical artists had been invited and that the exhibition was going to be at a prestigious gallery in Florence.

At this point, if you’ve never exhibited abroad before, I should mention that it’s not an inexpensive undertaking. You’ll need special packaging (a sturdy cardboard container with appropriate cushioning material designed for the purpose of shipping art, is best). And you’ll probably have to ship by FedEx or DHL or one of the other international carriers. The costs soon mount up. But we do this because we hope to sell the painting or, failing that, for the “exposure”, don’t we? At least, that’s what we tell ourselves if the painting doesn’t sell, “Too bad, but at least we got the exposure.”

There was an important element I didn’t cover in my homework—getting my painting back out of Italy. Who would have guessed that the Italians have stringent regulations in place for any art being shipped out of Italy? They were apparently put in place to protect their national treasures from being taken out of the country. It didn’t matter that my painting had been shipped in from Canada and was merely being returned. The bureaucratic quagmire of paperwork and red tape applied regardless.

To tell every detail of the sordid tale about uninformed organizers, the identity document copies that had to be submitted, the forms that had to be completed, the unhurried Italian bureaucracy, and the three months it took to get my painting back, would take up more space than I have here. Just take my hard-earned advice and do your homework thoroughly if you’re invited to exhibit abroad.

The Echinacea piece that took an extended trip to Italy and back.

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