Approaching Galleries – 11 Tips

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Nowadays I have found galleries to be much more accommodating than a few years ago, and the ways and means of getting your work seen by them is easier BUT it is still as hard to get in.

Before I start this post I am going to be a little blunt.  If your work is sub par, learn your craft more before entering this communication. Make sure your work is not just family friendly (that is family gushing over how good you are…… that is what families do).  You need an established body of work.  Preferably a series of some kind.  You need talent, and you need saleable images.

  1.  Only approach galleries who would be interested in your type of work.  There is no point in contacting a gallery who only show Beatles Paintings if you are doing abstract digital.  Do your research and make sure the gallery is one who may be interested in what you do.  Rejection is painful.  Try and lessen the chances.
  2. Make sure you have a series of work to show them.  You will need to lug some images around so make sure to invest in good safe portfolio case such as the Jullian Canvas Case  If the work needs framing, have it framed ready.  Make sure it is ready to hang.
  3. Get your story ready.  Make sure you know about your work.  Why you created it.  What you want for the future.  Where you see your work going.
  4. Understand how a gallery partnership works before going in so again, do some research.  Know what to expect so you can discuss professionally.
  5. We all know you are an artist and, yes, most of the time I dress like one and have paint on my clothes but, in this instance, it pays to clean up and dress as though for a job interview or meeting.  They need to know you are professional also.
  6. Know what your art is worth!  I cannot stress this enough.  The gallery will want either a percentage or a flat rate and you will need to be flexible and asking enough that it is worth it to them.  However, feel free to ask them what they think you should charge.  They are in the business and do not mind helping in this area.  Do not get upset if they do not agree with you.  Again, they probably know the market best at that time.
  7. ALWAYS make an appointment to see someone.  Never just walk in off the street expecting to have a chat.  When you go be 5 minutes early.  NEVER be late and never be too eager.  Ask them when creating the appointment what they need you to bring with you.
  8. Do not act like you are the most important person in this partnership.  Artists come and go I am afraid,but a good gallery is hard to find.  It is a partnership between you both and you are both important in this venture
  9. Take business cards with you.
  10. IMPORTANT – Do NOT enter vanity galleries (those that charge an entry fee).  You should never have to pay to be shown.  They are not going to help you sell your work as they already have your money!
  11. If the gallery does not accept you.  Do not storm out in a huff but instead ask them why.  Tell them you would like to know for future reference.  It may just be they feel you are not ready at this time and would like to see you at a later date.  Or they may tell you something that you can work on for the future.  My Grandparents always told me not to cut off my nose to spite my face.  It means do not have a self-destructive over-reaction to a problem.  The word may spread!

Finally, look on it as a learning experience and accept that the first few galleries you contact may not even make an appointment.  That is not important.  Each time you do make contact, you are learning something new.

Best wishes and GOOD LUCK!

Isabella F A Shores
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Isabella F A Shores

I am the founder and Manager of several sites that cater for artists.I hope to chat to you on one of them!I am also an artist specialising in oils.In my spare time (haha) I live in Manchester and love animals and driving.I live with a long suffering BF and three crazy animals... or is that a crazy BF and.......
Isabella F A Shores
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6 thoughts on “Approaching Galleries – 11 Tips”

  1. Great tips! As the Boy Scouts say “be prepared”. Start with smaller galleries to see what they want and be sure to match your offerings to the type of art they sell. Attend some openings, get to know the venue instead of just cold calling. Be prepared to show what you can bring to the table, It’s like a job interview. Let them know what you can do for them.

  2. Abbie, as always, good information! I might suggest a couple of additional statements.

    1. Generally, there are 2 types of Galleries out there. Once that’s owned by the artists/gallery owner and then more common, the Co-Op gallery, which is a group of artists, painters, photographers, potters, jewelry artists and others that share the cost AND the benefits of their joint venture. For a fee, you can “rent” wall space or a table top and show your work. You may also be asked to invest some of your time and “sit” in the gallery and help with visitors and sales. These Co-op galleries are a bit easier to get into, especially for newer artists, with no known sales “track record”.

    2. If accepted in a “real” gallery, they will ask you what you sell your art for and where. They, the gallery owners, don’t want to hang your work, “advertise” for you and then the buyer goes onto the Internet, and buys it for 50% less or even more. One way around this, is to only show different work in the gallery, than on any POD you might belong to.

    3. Also, be prepared, most “real” galleries will ask for 50% or MORE to show and sell your work, and that is common and pricing your work, to handle that “commission” is key and as mentioned above, a good gallery owner, can help with your pricing and you might just be pleasantly surprised!

    Rich Franco

  3. For those who want to make business cards, brochures and postcards to hand out, I recommend Vista Print. I have various versions of trifold brochures depending who I’m visiting. Each has different series of example of my work. I also take advantage of the two sided business card, the front as my information, and such, the back has a place for “Title” and “price” when displaying I use the back of the card, glued on foam board and filled in when displaying in local shops and restaurants. I use a linen finish on the cards and glossy on th brochures and post cards. I keep them in my car and camera bags. Great tips, in the article!

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