Art exhibitions in the gastronomy – free decoration or chance to become known?

Does it make sense for artists to exhibit in a restaurant, café or bar? Or should one rather try to show his works in art-specific spaces of art associations, offspaces and, of course, galleries?

A discussion with the singer Sabine Seide on this topic led me to summarize and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of artists and restaurateurs. “We make rooms available free of charge” – a well-known example of a musician who gets to the heart of the problem. Also visual artists often get the question whether they don’t want to exhibit for free in the rooms of a restaurant or café. Paintings, photographs, drawings but also sculptures are often shown.

The artworks fill the empty walls, the guests dine in the regularly changing ambience and have time to view the art and buy it if necessary. If one takes a closer look at the situation, it quickly becomes clear that in this constellation the restaurateur has an unbalanced advantage, while the artist is left behind.

The advantages and disadvantages for the artists:

Surely it is good for artists to draw the attention of a new audience to their own art. Especially highly frequented restaurants and cafés attract masses of potential buyers.

Nevertheless, there are only a few gastronomies in the greater Nuremberg area that have been organizing exhibitions with renowned artists for years and where art is actually bought in addition to food and drink.A well-known example is the Creperie Yechet Mad in Nuremberg, where artists and collectors also like to eat.

(c) Photo credit – gastronomy category at

The advantages and disadvantages for the gastronomy:

  • The restaurateur makes an exhibition possible for the artist and makes his premises available to him.
  • In return, he receives new artistic equipment free of charge for a certain period of time, so he has to invest less money in the equipment and decoration of his own restaurant and has a constantly changing art programme, which pleases the guests. In addition, he presents himself and his local art-interested and as a promoter of the artists, which is good for the image.
  • The vernissage brings new guests from the artist’s circle of friends and acquaintances and if the press reports about the exhibition, the restaurateur gets a very effective publicity.
  • The restaurateur also has the opportunity to charge a commission for the sale of works of art, such as a gallery owner.
  • It therefore makes economic sense for a restaurant to hold art exhibitions. There are no real financial risks.
  • It could, of course, be the case that one shows such bad taste and exhibits works of art that make guests’ eyes ache while eating? That would be bad.

The argument with the free rooms that can be “played on”:

As in the example with the musicians, the artists are offered the opportunity to use the catering facilities free of charge in order to become better known.

On the other hand, artists have the opportunity to exhibit in art associations, offspaces or galleries. Here they meet visitors interested in art and culture, who visit these places precisely because of art and to buy art.

There is a big psychological difference between buying art in a space created for it and making a spontaneous purchase while drinking coffee. The second happens with smaller sums and less often. Art associations, offspaces and galleries also do press work and invite the art public to the exhibition via their distributors.

Art institutions and spaces beat restaurants to lengths when it comes to making art known. The restaurateur should know that. What artists should consider when negotiating with a restaurant, café or bar:

  1. Before an exhibition is decided upon, the conditions must first be negotiated so that artists AND restaurateurs benefit and no imbalance arises.
  2. As an artist, you should be self-confident and not offer your art below value, for example free of charge. If the restaurateur wants works of art for his restaurant, he has to provide a service for them as well as for the rest of the equipment.

What are the possibilities?

Artists and restaurateurs can negotiate that a work of art from the exhibition is purchased by the restaurant itself. In return, the exhibition is free of charge for the restaurateur in the period to be defined.

The two parties negotiate a fee for the exhibition. The restaurateur therefore rents the artworks from the artist for the duration of the exhibition. As an artist, you should ask the restaurateur to actively promote the exhibition and inform his guests about the artist and the prices.

If the restaurateur wants a commission on the sale of a work of art, this must be weighed up on a case-by-case basis. This raises the price (or reduces the earnings) and makes a sale even more difficult. The total proceeds of the works of art should benefit the artist, because he is the producer of the works.

  • The argument that artists can use the rooms free of charge is a limp. As a rule, art can also be exhibited at art-specific locations, which is advantageous for the artist.
  • The observation that the artist becomes known and that many guests also buy art only applies to gastronomies that have been in business for some time and regularly hold high-quality exhibitions.
  • Artists must negotiate an exhibition and set a fee or the purchase of works by the restaurant or café before they are accepted.