On public display

Q. How do I know if I’m ready to start submitting my work to galleries? And, if I’m ready, how do I know which gallery or galleries to pick?

A. Before you can begin submitting to galleries, you should get qualified feedback from critics whose judgment you trust. It’s important that these critics aren’t family, aren’t in love with you, and don’t owe you any money. In other words, you’re looking for objectivity. It’s also important that these critics be immersed in the art world; for instance, college or high school art instructors, a sophisticated collector, or a fellow artist.

Once you find those critics (three will do), each of them should be sympathetic to what you’re trying to achieve. For example, if you’re a landscape painter, I wouldn’t advise submitting to someone who’s biased toward abstraction. So dig up that handful of people, take your work to them—with a pair of cappuccinos and some pastries in hand—and sit down. Listen to their feedback. If you trust their judgment, and their suggestions make sense to you, act on them.

Be open, but in the end you must follow your own instincts. If your training, talent and discipline are sound, your instincts can guide you very well—even better when coupled with sound criticism.

Regarding the eternal search for a good gallery, take heart: It isn’t always eternal. Persistence will land you competent representation, but you’ll have to do some legwork. First, you must make certain that the galleries you approach are open to carrying the sort of work you do. Then ask yourself: Are they contemporary? Are they traditional? Do they carry both types of work? And, equally important: Are they established and successful? Assess these things for yourself, contacting artists already in those galleries if necessary and asking them relevant questions.

Once you find galleries you admire based on sound recommendations—whether in your city or a neighboring one—then make an appointment to show the director a portfolio, making sure that you have some original pieces stashed in your car. These must be your strongest pieces, and well framed if you use frames. (Four to six paintings will do.) If you’re fully prepared, there’s a good chance that you’ll be leaving the paintings at the gallery, and not lugging them back to your home.

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