One of the big questions on every artist’s mind is: how do I approach an art gallery with my artwork? All galleries have different ways of finding new artists to add to their rosters, so this can be a tricky question. This article will give you some ideas on how to get the gallery attention your art deserves.
First and Foremost
A few notes on etiquette:
-Remember that gallery owners are running a small business and are very, very busy. Respect their time. Don’t bombard the gallery owner with emails and don’t add them to your monthly email newsletter list without asking their permission first. Don’t necessarily expect them to have the time to critique your work or to provide career counseling and advice.
– If you do send an email, don’t say, “Here’s my new painting.” That’s nice, but what do you want the gallery to do about it? Be specific about what it is you are looking for.
Do Your Research.
Find out what kind of art your target galleries generally show. Each gallery has aesthetic, style or medium preferences. Go to the gallery or their website, and see if your art fits. Make a list of the best venues for your artwork and target just those galleries, and follow the guidelines they set out. Which brings us to the next step:
Do More Research.
A variety of important information can usually be found on a gallery’s web site. Look for their “artist submissions” or “gallery information” page. You may have to do a little digging to find it, but check these areas: Contact, Artists or About Us. Some may request a link to your web site, your resumé or your CV. Some galleries may require slides, or Jpegs on a CD via mail. Some galleries hate getting Jpegs via email. Find out how they want to be approached and follow their particular guidelines- this will not be a one-size-fits-all process!
For example, Portland’s Froelick Gallery only reviews artist submissions every January. Some galleries may say they are not accepting any new artists at this time. Blackfish Gallery, a renowned artist-run co-op in Portland, offers occasional opportunities for membership; plus they also have two “fishbowl windows” that are available to unrepresented artists and curated through a jury process. Does your target gallery only show local or regional artists or are they open to out of town artists?
If your research and attention to detail doesn’t pay off, don’t be disheartened: There are other steps you can take to get attention from a gallery. Here are a few things that you can do to increase your visibility and build your resume:
Be Aware of Your Opportunities.
Watch your target galleries to see what sort of opportunities they have for artists. Perhaps they are like Blackfish Gallery and have special areas set up for new artists. PDX Contemporary Art curates a similar space. Or, perhaps they will have a call for entries to juried shows, which is a great way to give the gallery a test run. You get to know them and how they operate and they get a chance to give your art initial exposure to their regular collectors. Watch for these opportunities and then jump on them.
There are also many local and national juried exhibitions that have open calls to artists. Look for listings on websites such as the Regional Arts and Culture Council. Inclusion in these types of exhibitions will increase your exposure and establish you as an artist with a commitment to their practice.
In approaching galleries, above all be professional, be realistic and be persistent. If you follow these guidelines, you will have a much easier time getting your artwork seen and your creative voice heard.