If you are an emerging fine artist, you may be agonizing over how to approach a gallery with your work. It can be intimidating to even the most outgoing person.
There are some general steps you should follow before approaching a gallery. They are:
Have a solid body of finished work available in a similar theme or style.
Prepare a portfolio complete with your Biography and your Artist Statement.
Have your website up and running (gallerists want to see an updated, fresh website).
Research galleries that would be the best fit for your artwork.
Make a list of the galleries you wish to approach, based on your research. Then get familiar with the artists that are represented by those galleries. You want to be able to intelligently discuss the art that the gallery is showing when you do finally meet with them.
Don’t cold call or just drop in on a gallery. Use snail mail, a non-intrusive form of contact, to send them postcards of your newest works, and printed newsletters if you have one, until you’ve built up their knowledge of your work. Attend their shows, take time to support what they are doing with other artists before you ask for a meeting to consider representing you. One artist I know built up a gallery’s familiarity with her by mailing postcards of new artwork she created every 2 months. Over the course of a year, the gallery knew her name and work and eventually brought her in.
Understand that there are over 200,000 fine artists in the U.S. – and there are not enough galleries! You’ll have to be patient, take your time developing relationships, and not take rejection personally.
After you’ve become familiar with a gallery and their artists, call and ask for an appointment to show your portfolio. You may get turned down – galleries get called on by artists every day – but don’t despair. Continue to send postcards of your work. Keep them on your mailing list. And move onto the next gallery.
When you do get a meeting, be as professional as possible. Have your portfolio, website and business cards in tip top shape. Arrive to the meeting on time.
Sometimes it takes a few years for a gallery to finally represent you. So when you are told “no, not right now” keep in mind that it doesn’t mean “no” forever. Keep the relationship cordial and friendly. And stay in touch.
Not all artists need galleries. Actually, most do not now that we have the internet. But there is some value to having your art represented; it gives you credibility, helps you reach new collectors, and allows you to have a professional location to show your work.
It takes time to find the right match in a gallery. Sometimes it can take a few years. But remember, truly successful art careers not only last a long time, they take a long time to get going. Be patient, keep creating new artwork, and you’ll find a good home for your art.