“How much do exhibitions cost?” The number one question that I am asked.
The quick answer is: “$75-$550 per square foot”
“Why such a wide range?”
An Art exhibit of mostly flat Art work, little mount making or rigging can start at $75 per square foot including graphics. An interactive Science Center exhibition with a high density of interactive exhibits can reach $550 per square foot and beyond. When Disney does preliminary estimates of their attractions they budget $650 per square foot.
Per Square Foot Costs:
Aquarium $300-$550 per sq. ft.
Science Centers $300-$550 per sq. ft. (Highly interactive)
Corporate Museum $150-$550 per sq. ft.
Natural History Museum $250-$400 per sq. ft.
Out Door Exhibits $300-$550 per sq. ft. (Interactive, high end water exhibits)
Traveling Exhibition $100-$400 per sq. ft. (Dependent on level of interactivity)
Visitor Center $150-$300 per sq. ft.
Children’s Museum $150-$350 per sq. ft.
Art Museum Exhibition $75-$200 per sq. ft. (Does not include cost of Art)
1. All pricing dependent on level of interactivity, original exhibits and A/V
2. Costs do include, exhibition lighting, exhibition area walls, floor and wall coverings, specialty electrical requirements and exhibit costs
3. Costs do not include HVAC, base building electrical, cleaning lights, base building drywall, shipping and life / safety costs (sprinklers, exit signs, fire extinguishers)
4. Does not include back of house costs
5. Does not include FFE
6. Does not include staffing costs
Most design firms charge 20%-25% of the exhibition budget for design fees, i.e. “a 10,000 square foot science center is $300 per square foot times 10,000 sq. ft. for an exhibition budget of $3,000,000, 20% of the budget would be design fees ($600,000)”. Of the 20% design fees, approximately 25%-50% are graphic design fees, depending on the type of exhibition.
In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t work on percentage basis, I don’t believe it is fair to the client or creates the best results, we work on an hourly basis, estimating hours per phase. I have been estimating museum exhibition costs since 1992.
Percentage of Design Fee Per Phase
Concept Development 15%
Schematic Design 30%
Design Development 40%
Final Design 15%
1. Percentages are approximate; Art exhibition will have a greater percentage of conceptual development (curator fees) than a Children’s Museum.
Example Exhibition Costs:
10,000 Science Center Exhibition at $300 per square foot is $3,000,000 in exhibition costs with $600,000 in design fees.
Exhibitionist, Vol. 21, No. 1, Spring 2002 by Jay Rounds and Joyce Cheney
2009 ASTC Statistics Analysis Package