10 TIPS FOR ARTISTS APPROACHING GALLERIES:
1. Be Professional – think in terms of a job interview – what can you offer the Gallery?
2. Have a Good, consistent body of work – You should have 10 to 20 strong works available. Think in terms of a SOLO show. What pieces work well together? A Gallery doesn’t necessarily need to see your realistic figure drawings if your focus is Urban Landscapes. Galleries want to see that you have a direction and focus. This is one of the biggest mistakes emerging artists make, is trying to show everything they do – from jewelry, realistic portraits, abstracts etc. A gallery director needs to be able to see a vision and be able to communicate that to collectors.
3. Have good quality photographs of your work and have them digitally available as well. Most Galleries now prefer digital images (on CD) over slides. Many Museums and Juried competitions however still require slides, but that is changing quickly. The art establishment has been slower to adopt new technologies.
4. Have a postcard or other visual the Gallery can keep on file, which is representative of the kind of work you do.
5. Research the Gallery first – again, think in terms of job hunting, and researching an employer. What kinds of work do they show? It doesn’t do you any good to submit work to Galleries that don’t sell your style of work. Ask questions. Are they looking for new artists, do they only show established artists? Find out what their submittal criteria is and follow it!
6. Have a simple, well written artist statement without the use of “Artspeak”. Use language the average collector can appreciate. The Gallery may appreciate it, but they need to be able to translate that to the average collector. Really think about your work and what makes it different, or better, or interesting. What motivates you? What influences you? Try to leave out that you are influenced by XYZ Artist. They were not trying to be someone else, and you need to find your own form of authenticity.
7. Have a record of exhibitions or awards (or not)? Even if your exhibitions are limited list where you have shown. List any Art Consultants you have worked with, juried competitions entered or CO-OP Galleries shown with. If you haven’t shown, you need to make every effort to start exhibiting your work. Again this is like a job interview and any experience no matter how small reads at a minimum like an internship.
8. Respect the Gallery and realize that the Gallery owner is also trying to make a living in the art world, and has a great deal of expenses and time involved, beyond just “hanging art”. Know that most Gallery owners are also artists or art lovers and have the same passion for art that you do.
9. Understand it is an interdependent relationship – you both need each other. The easier you make it to sell the work, the more they will sell. Also, know there are other options for exhibiting and selling your work, so if it doesn’t work out other options will present themselves.
10. Don’t take it personally. It is not personal. Most often the Gallery has a specific niche, which is valuable to know before you approach them. Is it conceptual, western art, glass art, works on paper, etc.? Where and how does your work fit in with their mission?
<A HREF=”http://ws.amazon.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&MarketPlace=US&ID=V20070822%2FUS%2Fthfiarne-20%2F8001%2F173626ae-f9ce-4e35-99eb-ab36cf720921&Operation=NoScript”>Amazon.com Widgets</A>Recommended Books:
Caroll Michels – How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist – Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul. Very good book written by a career coach for artists, outlining many different possibilities.
Cay Lang – Taking the Leap – Building a Career as a Visual Artist –
A very clear roadmap for how to build a career from the beginning. Written by a professional, exhibiting artist.
For artists not wanting to be pigeonholed as one genre or another, this question can seem intrusive and annoying. “Why should I have to limit myself to any one way, why can’t I be constantly evolving?” This may seem like a valid response, but for an artist that wants to become a professional artist, it is a question you must ask yourself and answer honestly.
Who are you can be as simple as where do you live, or how old are you? It can also be as complicated and detailed as, “I’m a classically trained photorealist painter who now works with found objects, clay, and a pottery wheel to create abstract constructions based on our consumer culture.” As human beings, we are constantly evolving and I would hate to see anyone who stayed the same at 50 as they were when they were 20 years old. We need to grow and evolve, especially for creative individuals, but who you are and what your story says about you is vitally important to why people relate to your art and want to own parts of it. As an art consultant and former gallery owner myself, I found that clients and collectors were most interested in the artist’s story, who they are or were. Once you tell their story, the client feels they know you in some way and can relate to you, and possibly can be a part of your creativity.
When artists begin to write their artist statement or biographical portrait, they must know who they are, and what it is they want to share with the world. You may not be comfortable sharing everything about who you are and why you are the way you are, but it is important to know what influences you and the factors that helped shape who you are as an artist. What influences you? This does not mean listing other artists you like and try to be like, nor does it mean what art movements have been interesting enough for you to follow. When asked the question “what are your influences” an artist must be prepared to share a bit of themselves that does not have to do with copying anybody or anything else. It has to do with who you are as a person and as a creative being, and why you would continue to work so hard at something that very few ever succeed in.
Art history honors the 1st and the most original within all new movements, it does not recognize the ones who thought that movement was interesting and followed along. I tell my kids frequently, “be a leader, not a follower.” Artists should honor that which is unique to them; be a first-rate version of your own self instead of a copy of someone else. A museum would never give a solo show to an artist who touted themselves as “influenced by Mark Rothko.” We all love Mark Rothko, but that is just not interesting to be purposely just like another more famous artist. What is more interesting would be that your work was influenced by living on a farm in rural Iowa and doing crop rotations every spring, creating mathematical grid patterns within a flat surface, and that the colors you use remind you of the rotting corn in August. That is unique to only you.
Click to read this very funny list:
The 20 Most Powerless People in the Art World: 2011 Edition.
This is a hilarious and very timely list in response to the recent Art Review “Top 100 Most Powerful People in the Art World”
I am still trying to figure out what a “Pre-post-studio Mono-medium Artist” is.
I would add one more Most Powerless to this list:
21. Emerging artists who donate their art to local charities for “great exposure”
Yes, we have all done it, but it is time to stop. I stopped after I was asked to donate a painting of mine to a very expensive private school in town (my kids are in public school) for their annual auction. “It’s great exposure” the parent informed me, adding “these parents have a lot of money. Last year we made over $165,000 in one night!”
So if these people have so much money, why are they getting an unfairly low price for a great work of art, while we essentially support their private school? I might even call this one number one on the list.