Contrary to what most new artists think, art galleries do want to look at new artists’ artworks. Most art galleries want to be able to do this on their terms, on their time schedule and in their own manner. If an artist wants to successfully present their art to an art gallery, then they really should comply with the gallery’s presentation procedures.
I am often asked “how do I get my artwork into art galleries?” I cannot say that there is a set formula in how to approach an art gallery, but I can give you some tips to guide you in this mission. The major mistake that I see artists make is that they will be so desperate to get their work shown that they waste a lot of time approaching and making contact with the wrong art galleries. By this I mean, that the artist is soliciting any and all art galleries without first determining whether their art is compatible and in keeping with that gallery’s inventory.
I believe that the artist should do a certain amount of research on the targeted gallery prior to approaching them to show/present their work. The artist should objectively evaluate the gallery whether they are a good fit with their art, style, media, pricing etc. For instance, if you are a photographer or a sculptor and the gallery you want to show your work in does not represent photographers or 3D art, why waste your time (and also the gallery’s time) trying to get an appointment? Or, if the pricing of the art that the gallery represents is in the 5 figure range and you sell your art on average for $500.00, I would not bother approaching this gallery. Your time should be valuable to you, therefore, only solicit art galleries and gallery directors/owners who represent artists whose art is similar to yours in terms of media, pricing and style.
Today, there is enough information online (and usually at the art gallery’s website) that will allow the artist to make a reasonable judgment on whether that gallery is a good prospect for their art. The gallery website will show the represented gallery artists, samples of their art, a short bio of the artist and prices of their art. Is your artwork comparable to the art that this gallery presently represents? If this gallery has the potential to be a good fit for you, only then, would I go into further research of this gallery.
Many times the gallery website will provide their submission policy or submission parameters and requirements. In some cases, they will say that they are not reviewing any portfolios at this time. This means that at this time, the gallery is satisfied with their current artists and that they are too busy to stop and review art portfolios. Please respect this and do not bother the gallery. However, if a gallery has not provided their submission policy publicly, then a short note or a concise email asking what their present submission policy will suffice. There is no good reason at this time to go into any further detail on your art, education, qualifications etc.
Many art galleries schedule a certain time of the year or a time of the month when they will review portfolios, as this is much easier and more efficient to review art portfolios at the same time. Again, an artist should follow their procedure and schedule exactly as it states. To do anything else, will risk the artist, for being remembered by the gallery for the wrong reasons!
You finally find a gallery that seems to be suitable to your art, you contact them or present your artwork in their prescribed manner and they would now like to see more of your artworks and discuss showing in their gallery with you! Now what do you do? Here are some tips and ideas to help an artist to follow when they finally get an appointment with the art gallery;
1. Make sure that your biography, CV and artist statement are up to date. Have extra copies too.
2. Have all images of your artwork prepared in several forms for the gallery to review. Make sure that you have extra copies of this work in order to be able to leave them at the gallery for further review. There is nothing worse for an artist to say to the gallery, that this is their only set and that they have to take it with them. Don’t do it.
3. Make sure that the images of your artwork is professionally presentable. This means that there are no crooked images, no frames in the image, that the images are cropped (with no backgrounds beyond the image borders), no watermarks, and no hot spots. Also, make sure that all images are color corrected and if you cannot do any of the above well, get someone to do it for you with the proper equipment, programs and experience in duplicating art.
4. Act professionally. Think of this gallery appointment as you would if you were applying for a job and the employer was interviewing you. The gallery will have questions about your background, experience and your art. Conversely, you should be prepared to discuss how they conduct their gallery business and if you were to be selected, how could their arrangements help to sell your art?
5. Be prepared to wait, for a decision on their behalf about taking you on as a gallery artist. In many cases, art galleries are working a year or two out with the scheduling of their shows and exhibitions. So be prepared to wait and be patient.
6. Conversely, be prepared to act quickly! How can this be after what I said in #5 above? I make this statement because there are artists, even though they were accepted into a gallery who are not prepared and they will need to drop out. At that point, the gallery will need a replacement artist very quickly and you can be that replacement if you are ready! When I first started out, even though I was not the gallery’s first choice, I was asked several times to replace artists who were not prepared or were “no shows”. This will not occur all of the time, but there is always a chance…be prepared and available.
7. Whatever you do, do not keep calling the gallery to bug them about your art, your meeting, their decision about your art, etc. Art galleries are busy places and they have their own schedule to follow, not yours. Again be patient.
8. If you have the time, I suggest sending an “old fashion” handwritten thank you note to the person who you had the appointment with at the art gallery. Why is this? Because, No One Else Does It! It is a nice touch, totally unexpected to the recipient and it is an incredibly good way to have them remember you in a positive way.
9. One of the best ways to meet gallery directors/owners to discuss your art is through the introduction by other artists who have shown their art at the gallery. This approach is much better than a “cold call” and it is also a form of a “third party endorsement of your work. This is another reason why it is important to network and be a part of local art organizations
10. Think locally and branch out from there. Get known locally prior to approaching art galleries in larger cities. Try to get into local galleries through art competitions and art shows, and then build upon that success into regional, state and national galleries.
11. Are you just starting out? Besides #9 above, seek to place your art in alternative venues, rather than just art galleries. What do I mean by this? Get your art into local restaurants, retail shops, community clubhouses, consignment stores and libraries. All of these alternative venues can help you to become known and established within your community. Also, who knows, you might make some sales too!
I also suggest that you try to learn how art galleries operate, as this will give you a better understanding of the business and it help you when you do approach them to show your artwork. There is a “code of conduct” to the art business and as an artist starting out, try to learn the ins and outs of the business, as to do otherwise will eventually lessen your chances of getting your art into galleries. Good luck!