Getting Into A Gallery

FracturedDo you dream about getting into a gallery, but are unsure of the steps you need to take to reach your goal?  The information below is from an interview I did with Art Professor Barry Benton on how artists can get their work shown in galleries.

Your 1st Visit To A Prospective Gallery
Visit galleries and scope them out.  When you’re going from gallery to gallery, keep the following in mind:
– Dress for success – think of this as a pre-interview of the gallery.  Have you ever visited a gallery wearing shorts or jeans and sandals?  Were you ignored a little?  Have you visited a gallery when you were dressed up?   Were you engaged by the gallery reps?  Unfortunately, people size us up by our wardrobe choices, so you may want to do a wardrobe check before setting out to explore potential galleries.
– During your first visit to each gallery, try not to mention anything about showing your work, but feel free to engage them about the artwork on display and their artists.  This is a pre-interview process and you need to check the gallery out and see if it’s suitable for you to show in.
– Would your artwork “fit” in with the other work there?
– Do you like the gallery space and atmosphere?  Is it welcoming?
– Notice the size of the artwork currently being displayed.  How is it in relation to yours?
– What is the price range of the pieces on display?  Are they comparable to yours?  Do you need raise or lower your prices?
– Are all of the artworks framed?
– Is there a predominant subject matter throughout the gallery?  Would the subject matter add or take away from your artwork?
– Is the gallery rep nice and pleasant?  Do you think you would be able to work with them well?  Your relationship with whatever gallery takes in your work is a business relationship, so it’s important to feel at ease with the gallery, since the two of you will be working to sell your artwork.  If someone brushes you off or ignores you, that may be a good indication that you shouldn’t show your work at that location.
– Take a trusted artist friend along with you for additional feedback. They may notice things that you overlook and be able to give you a different perspective about the gallery.  (Make sure they dress up a little too!)
– Weed out the galleries that you know you don’t want to show in and start preparing for a 2nd visit to the galleries that looked promising.

Your 2nd Visit To A Prospective Gallery
The pre-interview process is over…you’re interviewing the gallery and they’ll be interviewing you for future business potential, so you’ll need to go alone.
Since you’re selling yourself, please consider the following:
– Dress for success – like you would if you were going on a corporate job interview.
– Smile often
– Make and maintain eye contact
– Be mindful of your posture – don’t twitch, slouch or twiddle your thumbs
– Pop in a couple of Tic Tacs when you’re on the way there to make sure that your breath isn’t offensive.
– Take a small notebook or planner with you to take notes
– Introduce yourself and ask the gallery rep “How do you like to have artwork submitted to your gallery for review?”  This question will get the ball rolling and they’ll start telling you what you need to do or bring.     Take notes.
– If they don’t mention the commission rate, you’ll need to ask. (For most galleries, it’s a 50/50 ratio.)
– Ask them how they go about promoting shows and the artwork of their artists.   THIS IS IMPORTANT!!    You want your artwork to sell and if the gallery isn’t into heavy promos, your sales success rate decreases considerably.
– If you’re comfortable with the interaction of the gallery rep and think that this gallery is a place that you want to show in, ask them if you can schedule an appointment for the review of your work.  (Keep it within a couple of weeks of this 2nd visit so that they don’t forget you before they see you again.)
– If you have any marketing/promotional items such as a business card, postcard, or brochure that contains some of your images, you’ll want to give it to them before you leave, but only after you’ve engaged in conversation with them.

Your 3rd Visit To The Gallery – Presentation/Submission of Artwork

Make sure that you’ve had time to prepare everything that you need. Some galleries require that you bring examples of your artwork in a portfolio, on slides, or on a CD.  A selection of 15-20 pieces is a good number of works for them to review.

The gallery may require an artist statement – which is a written statement by you about what your artwork represents and/or why you do it.
The gallery may require an artist bio – it should contain the year, date and city of your birth, your education or who you have studied with and your history in art.
The gallery may require an artist resume – this is a chronological list of where you have displayed works previously, awards that you’ve won, and who you’ve studied with.

Make sure that you keep all the originals of anything the gallery requests for reviewing your work…just in case you don’t get it back, you don’t want to have to do everything all over again.
– Dress for success and don’t forget your Tic Tacs!
– Arrive 3-5 minutes before your appointment
– Smile often
– Make and maintain eye contact
– Pay attention to your posture
– Hand them the materials they have requested
– If the gallery rep starts to review your work in your presence, try not to talk too much, if at all.   Let your work talk for itself.   They are trying to decide if your work would “fit” in their gallery.
– Let them take time to go through your work.  If they ask you questions, answer them as precisely as possible without being too wordy.
– If you have any questions, wait till they’re done reviewing your work.
– If they make a decision to show your work or to review it later, don’t forget to thank them for their time and make sure that they have your contact info so that the preparations can begin.
– If they decide not to show your work at that particular time, thank them for their time and consideration and make sure they have your contact info for future reference if they need it.  Don’t take it too hard or too personal if a gallery decides not to show your work.  There’s a reason for everything and perhaps this gallery isn’t the best place for you to be right now.  The thing is to keep on trying until you find that perfect venue where you should be showing your art.

Next week, we’ll start on marketing for artists.   🙂

-Michelle McSpadden

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