NGV Bonnard exhibition, wallpaper with people observing work infront of them

What Makes A Good Art Exhibition?
The 2 Fundamentals of a Memorable Show.

Putting together an exhibition offers a range of possibilities, some can be very grand, and some can be quite simple. Here we will highlight a couple of options you might like to consider. These are the absolute basics that you can turn to, to begin building a show from the ground up.

As far as the graphics are concerned there are 2 key techniques that we very often see designers utilising in their shows. Regardless of the size of the show, it’s very likely these are going to make an appearance.


This first technique goes by many names; Forme Cut Text, Computer Cut Vinyl (CCV), Forme Cut SAV (Self Adhesive Vinyl), Wall Decals. This is simply the process of cutting vinyl and sticking it on the wall. This is such a versatile process and we see it being used in a variety of ways. Titles of all sizes, bodies of text, artist quotes, artwork info, entry messages, exit messages, directional arrows/messaging, toilet signage, sponsor logos, the list goes on.

At DE we run our cutting machine on Adobe Illustrator, other machines have different setups and software however ours is integrated with AI, meaning that as long as paths can be read in Illustrator, we’re okay to produce the graphic. It’s already a really user friendly software and being able to work from there when cutting our didactics makes the job that little bit easier. It also gives the artist/designer lot of creative freedom in the artwork setup stage for these elements.

Our only limitation is scale… anything too small and we have to pivot across to the printer and make more of a sticker. We usually suggest any letter height under 7mm will be too small but there are exceptions. Intricate logos like a coat of arms also usually need printing.

Internal Graphics at ACMI's Goddess exhibition
ACMI | Goddess

Printing colour onto the material before cutting allows specific colours to be implemented for each of these elements. Often matching to a brand colour or a colour in other parts of the exhibition, colours that are found on a pamphlet or a banner or a painted wall, as examples.

This technique can also be substituted with a printed poster/decal version… a little money can be saved by printing a didactic to a SAV or wallpaper and sticking the panel on the wall as opposed to forme cutting and weeding and eventually removing a full didactic. Usually a really attractive alternative to consider for lower budget shows. 

And as it happens it’s also a nice segue into the next technique which is known simply, and commonly as… Wallpapers!


Wallpapers are one of the most basic means of decorating a room. Easy to install and remove, they make for a very quick and cost effective way to breathe life and atmosphere into a space. All kinds of artwork are able to be used here, affording many possibilities.

A designer is given a lot of control over how these graphics ultimately look in a space. Visual mock-ups can be created to simulate what a wall or room will look like once treated. So, in the design process, artwork can be played with and adjusted, trying different looks and multiple options to see which will look the best for the given space. This can happen right up until production. Although if print proofing is required then time for that is also to be allowed.

We’re even seeing some clients creating 3D mock-ups so you can really visualise what the space is going end up being. I’m interested to see how this progresses in the future as this kind of software becomes more broadly adopted and skillsets are developed.

Wallpapers and other assorted graphics installed for the Pierre bonnard exhibition at NGV
NGV | Bonnard

Scaling images up can require a little more attention but advances in software assist and are always improving, therefore most graphics are absolutely suitable to be blown up for a wall, without pixelation. I will be writing another post about this in more detail soon. 

But in short most non vector images are now usable, even photos of older artwork. We recently produced a wallpaper for artist Belinda Fox, where the original artwork was a physical work about 800mm x 500mm and we took photos of it here in the studio and then used those photos to produce a wallpaper 4200mm x 3700mm. The result was as good as we would see from any vector or digitally produced work. Belinda then flew this wallpaper over to be installed in San Francisco where it is on display in the Maybaum Gallery.

Art Gallery space showcasing work from belinda fox. Three works hanging on a wallpapered wall.
Art Gallery space showcasing the work from Belinda Fox | Wallpaper

Our go-to material is applicable for both short and long term installs. It’s very removable and more importantly recyclable, so for the popup exhibitions it’s a really good option. And then as for long term installs, rarely do we encounter problems, some installs lasting well over 2 years… and counting.

Beyond full wall covering there are many other options available with respect to coverage. Wall-covering as a technique can be adjusted to more of a poster or a partial wall covering. Other examples are feature walls, entrance graphics, window coverings, the only real limitation we face would be surface condition. But if the surface is usable then it’ll work.

Wallpapers and Cut SAV alone can be combined in any number of ways, so much can be achieved with just these guys, but there’s plenty more to dive into. Wrapping floors, ceilings, plinths and tables. Hanging or stretching fabric graphics. Incorporating artificial light with a light-box or using coloured transparent film with the natural light in the space, to give a different atmospheric feel.

So much can be done to build a space, and being able to utilise the basics in the most effective ways possible sets an ideal foundation for developing a memorable show!

Wallpapers and other assorted graphics installed for the Pierre bonnard exhibition at NGV
NGV | Bonnard

The work shown in this post is work that we have completed for NGV, ACMI Rising and artist Belinda Fox.

Check out the Full catalogue of photos for these jobs here;

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment

Be notified when the next article is posted!