6 Important Things To Do Before You Approach an Art Gallery

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Are you ready to approach an art gallery with your work?  Do you know what you will need if you decide to meet with a gallery director?

6 Important things to do before you approach an art gallery

Gallery Henoch in the Chelsea Arts District of New York City

If you have painted for some time and are serious about your career as an artist, then you might have thought about getting gallery representation.

But you may be uncertain about whether you are ready to make such an important move.

In my bestselling eBook Secrets to Selling Art, I show you the top three ways to meet gallery directors in large markets like NYC and what to do after you meet them.

Below are six clear guidelines to help you find out whether you are ready to take this important step in your career and approach an art gallery.

And I’ve put together a checklist of things you will need to take with you when you go.

1. Create a Clear Artistic Vision

This is the big one.

Gallery directors are looking for mature artists and mature artists have a clear artistic vision.

A clear vision of what you are trying to do with your art will set you apart from artists who are unsure of themselves in this regard.

You have to follow your heart and instincts on this one.  No one can tell you what your vision should be.  You are essentially following after the guiding North Star of your soul.  This is your calling,  your life’s work.  This is what you were called as an artist to bring into this world.  No small thing.

2. Work Hard on Your Craft

Once you have decided on your vision, give yourself at least 1 to 5 years to bring it to fruition.

This will depend on how prolific of an artist you are.  Some artists turn out many works very quickly.  Others have a slower pace.

If you are a painter, paint a lot.  And throw most of them away, or paint over them.  Be very critical of your work.  Keep only the best of the best.

Get hard critiques from other artists.  Don’t let them be easy on you.

Keep only the the work that meets the true voice of your vision.

3. Create a Cohesive Body of Work (about 20 pieces)

Your goal is to create a cohesive and consistent body of work.  It should be about 20 pieces.  These 20 pieces of art should speak clearly about your vision.

They should have a clear theme and direction.

These 20 pieces of art will define you as a mature artist.

So choose each one carefully.

4. Participate in Group or Student Exhibitions

If you are student at a local art school or university, take part in as many group and student shows as you can.   You should add these to your résumé.  It shows the gallery director that you have experience in this area.

It also shows that you are a hard worker and dedicated creative person.  These are more signs of artistic maturity.

5. Put Together Your Promotional Materials

Your promotional materials should be well thought out and have a professional appearance.  Use templates for your resumes.  Or better still, go to your local jobs center and take class on writing a professional resume.

Here are the things you will need to take to the gallery director:

  • Resume (include all your student and professional exhibitions, education, honorable mentions, press coverage, radio or television interviews and dates of each.
  • Color slides or jpeg images of your 20 works of art on a CD or thumb drive. Each image should be clearly labeled with title of work, dimensions, medium, year of creation, and your name.
  • Some gallery directors may ask that you bring in actual pieces of your work from your portfolio.  Discuss this ahead of time and be ready with this if needed.
  • Business cards (this is optional)

You should be able to articulate your artistic vision to the gallery director.  Try to narrow this down to about one or two paragraphs. You can put this on your résumé if you like.  But the main point here is that you have your artistic vision statement memorized and can talk about it in a conversational manner.

6. Research the Art Gallery

You should always research the art gallery that you hope to approach.  Make sure that your work is a fit for the art gallery.

Do they consistently show the kind of work you produce?

If not, don’t waste yours or the gallery director’s time.

Many galleries, especially in the major markets like New York City, specialize in a narrow market.  Some galleries only promote realist painters.  Others only promote abstract artists.  Do lots of research especially in large markets.

Comments

  1. I just found your blog while tag surfing. I’m in the process of finding my artistic vision and your article is very timely for me. I am in the process of weeding out the excess information found on the internet in blogs,tweets, google+ and Facebook and keeping a select few who meet my needs
    I am currently on step 1 and 2 creating my vision and working hard on my craft. Thank you for the steps as a guideline for preparing my artist statement.

    • Hello Louise. Thanks for your comments. It looks like you are right on track and have a clear plan. Creating your vision and then bringing it to life through your work are the most rewarding parts of the process. Thanks again and good luck.

  2. Hi Gary – thanks for sharing your insights. Your blog is well-researched, thoughtful and inspirational, and even as a seasoned artist I have found it helpful and refreshing.

  3. Nice blog Gary – very sound advice and a good read. Thank you. Look forward to the next!

  4. Thanks for posting.

  5. I appreciate the generosity of your blog. So many artists focus on promoting themselves.. You share your knowledge, which helps others to grow. The way I see it, you earn the right to promote your own art in return. Thank you. I am considering starting a blog that isn’t ALL ABOUT ME. The task presents me with considerable technical hurdles, but you provide a model in terms of your ability to share your successes.

  6. The guidelines are very much appreciated. I am a big fan of art. I’ve been painting since I was in grade school. I have my paintings on my wall. Memories I have in my childhood. All those that I experienced were my inspiration.

  7. Hi Gary,
    Though what you wrote wasn’t new to me, it was nice to read clear specific points to focus on. I have a vision & even as an at-home-mom I paint & sketch a lot. I just always don’t know what to present – my pieces that I like best, or peices that other people like best. Also, it is so difficult to keep at the galleries & try to “sell myself” & my artwork off. I’m passionate about my work & want to show in galleries, but the chase is so tiring & sometimes depressing…. Any tips? Thanks!

    • Hi Tamar. Thanks for your comments. You said you were a stay-at-home mom and so you are juggling a lot of responsibilities. What you need is help from you family and friends. You can’t do all of this alone. Call a family meeting or a meeting with a few of your closest friends. These people love you and want to see you succeed with your career. Tell them that you need help and get them to rally around you. Delegate many smaller tasks to these family members or friends. Maybe one family member can prime your canvasses for you. Maybe you have another friend who has some experience in sales (such a s real estate agent). This friend could help you polish you sales skills and make you more confident in this area. Or maybe you could get them to actually cold call on some galleries for you.
      Do you see? You can’t do this alone. Get some help and it won’t be so tiring. It will become a lot more fun.

  8. Thanks Gary for your quick reply!
    Actaully, my family IS very supportive. My husband sets up canvases for me wherever my heart desires, he watches our daughters when I feel the urge to paint & incourages me to get a sitter during the day as well.
    Also, my parents have been supportive from the moment I decided art was my thing. They paid for my schooling & will be paying for my second degree in art as well.
    It’s more a question of how to choose the pieces for the galleries. & how to keep at then till my things are chosen to be shown somewhere.
    I guess I just have to keep at it….

    • Hi Tamar. It’s great that you have a very supportive family. That goes a long way and is half of the battle. The other half, like you said, is getting to the galleries and being persistent. As far as choosing your pieces for the galleries, get other artist friends to help you with that. Art teachers that you respect are also a good choice for this. Also, rely on your own good instincts for this. Your heart will tell you which ones are the best. Trust yourself here. To get in a gallery, you must first meet the gallery director and then keep in touch. The gallery will probably already have all the artists it needs. You must be persistent and contact them (in a tactful way) every month. Otherwise, they will forget who you are. When the gallery does need a new artist, you will be first in their minds, but only if you have kept in touch on a regular basis. I will be writing about this in articles to come. So keep checking back, or better yet subscribe to my blog. Thanks again.

  9. I love your blog, but would prefer to receive it in a weekly digest or some format where I don’t have to reread the same responses. Can you advise me. Thank you for your generosity. Susan

    • Hi Susan- If you decide to subscribe to my blog, you will receive an email with the first post. Within that email, there will be a settings function where you set delivery for once a week or ever how often you like. Thanks for your interest.

  10. Gary,

    i have just compelted the first year of an Art foundation course for mature students and your blog has been so helpful to me right now. I know I have some work that is good enough to sell,but you have reinforced my thoughts about being more developed as a mature artist before approaching galleries. THank you so much for sharing this information.

    Laura

    • Hello Laura,
      Thanks for sharing. It’s really a subjective judgement when to approach a gallery. Don’t sell yourself short, though. You may just be afraid of approaching the right gallery and use the excuse that you are not good enough to stay away. Be careful of this. Thanks again.

  11. Hello,
    just an opinion questions, do you think it more likely to get a response from a gallery by sending them (without preamble or an in) a brochure style one pg. two sided visual showing 4 or 5 pieces with a brief blurb and contact info, or the full 20 images, image list, artist statement, bio and cv? part of my hesitation is the amount of money involved in this process (I am assuming that 9 out of 10 i will hear nothing and of the remaining 10% maybe half will end up representing my work… even with scouting galleries that rep work similar to my aesthetic- not out of negativity, just realistic) lot of printing lot of cds lot of time, (unsure as to why but i feel the need to mention I am a glass blower, and find that galleries tend to hesitate when dealing with sculptural works… as though it takes up more real-estate…) -long windidly I ask if some of these gallery people are possibly to busy to bother reading all that sitting down at their computer and scrolling through images or if i might have better luck with something visually stimulating that may get them curious enough to ask for- well the full package…

  12. Gary, your 6 important things are certainly important, and maybe the first one is most important, creating a unique and clear vision.

    However here is my question. You seem to be focused more on painting and most comments here are from painters and your comments are useful for them. But what about other media, sculpture, drawings, glass (like Eric above), and photography which is my major activity although I have done painting at one time. Also recently I have done a lot with digital and most of my recent work are iPhone images modified in a variety of apps. I suppose one might regard me as cutting edge in my latest work.

    If one has cutting edge work then what do you suggest is the best way to approach galleries?

    • Gary Bolyer says:

      The best thing to do before you approach any gallery is to do the research. You must know if the gallery’s direction is in line with your style of work. This is the key. You could go online and look at their website. You could ask art critics who review galleries in the area. You could also call the gallery director and ask him. If your work is a fit, then pursue steps to get the gallery director’s approval to bring in samples of your work. Thanks for your excellent comments and questions.

  13. Hello Gary,

    I work for a art gallery in Houston, TX and we love the topics you choose to hit on. We will be using some of your material in our blog section. Credits to you of course.

    Have a great day!

    @dandcogallery
    DandCGallery.com

  14. Hello Gary,

    I was recently contacted by Agora Galley NYC. My new body of work is clearly not ready for prime time yet, so what is there objective although flattered. The gallery charges a large promotional fee. That is your advise. Thank You, DANIEL

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