Long-time gallery owner, Ivar Zeile, as well as several other art world experts, helped us to answer the sometimes difficult question of just how to get your work displayed in an art gallery. As any artist knows, it can be a challenging road, and you’re never sure if you’re approaching the problem in the right way.
1) Respect the Process
If you have ever applied for a job, you know how much work and research you probably put into the process, and applying to show your work at a gallery should use much the same approach. Most good galleries take their relationship with their artists seriously, and you should customize your letter or email so it pertains to that particular gallery, which will take some research. Ask a gallery owner to look at your work and critique it, rather than simply asking them to represent you. This approach doesn’t come across as being pushy, yet at the same time, it brings you to the attention of the gallery. Don’t be afraid to let the gallery know why your work is important, how it would fit in with the works they already have, and explain what your recent work is about.
2) Don’t Spend Too Much Time In the Coffee Shop
The more time you actually spend in your local art gallery rather than at your favourite coffee shop, the more chance you have of connecting with gallery owners. Focusing on cooperative galleries is an easy and effective way to make that next big step in your art career and achieve your goal of having your work on display.
3) Always Be Your Best Self
You want to demonstrate to an art dealer or gallery owner that you really do know what you want and what you are about if a gallery owner visits you at work in your studio. Remember not to be too pushy when they visit and try to have low expectations. It’s worth remembering that the gallery owner is just as interested in you as a person as they are interested in your art. Gallery owners want to be confident they have made the right choice when they agree to show your work and represent you, and part of that is about getting to know you as a person and what makes you tick.
4) Don’t Behave Like a Collector
It can adversely affect your chances of having your art shown in a particular art gallery if the gallery owner gets the impression you are a collector, rather than an artist. Make a point of letting them know you are an artist, although requesting them to show your work isn’t appropriate at this point. Take an interest in the gallery and what’s on display, be respectful and talk to the other artists showing their work there if you have the chance. The bottom line is the owner of the gallery needs to know if the person they are talking to is a collector and potential buyer or not.
5) Give the Appropriate Information
Pricing information, dimensions of work and mediums used are all key pieces of information you will need to provide if you are asking a gallery to look at your work online. Remember that time is usually in short supply to an art gallery owner, so your work should be well organized and easy to look at, using an online portfolio, and of course, your best work and your most recent work should be the focus. To enable your work to stand out and make an impression, use an online portfolio and profile system such as Artwork Archive.
6) No Gimmicks
If an art gallery owner has the time, they may just open one of the many emails they regularly receive from hopeful artists asking to display their work. But keep your communication straightforward, respectful and honest; too many gimmicks or smart catchphrases may turn them away.