Some artists find shopping for the right art gallery an intimidating process. However, unless you have galleries knocking at your door, you’re going to have to get comfortable with knocking on theirs. Being prepared, professional and learning how to sell yourself are the keys to your success.
To help you prepare, check out this important checklist of ideas and questions to ask yourself before you approach a target gallery.
Step 1: Be honest and ask yourself these questions:
Is my art technically good?
Have I developed a recognizable style?
Am I ready to sell myself to a gallery?
Do I have a cohesive body of work ready to display?
Is my art sellable?
Have I had success selling my work in art/craft shows, out of my studio and other non-gallery venues?
Do I have the time to fulfill the supply & demand of a gallery?
Do I have a website or blog that showcases my art and information?
Do I have a professional-looking portfolio, bio, and resume and artist statement?
If the answers are yes, you might be ready to take the next step toward finding the right gallery. If the answer is no—don’t put yourself into a vulnerable position.
Be forewarned, approaching a gallery before you’re truly ready is similar to putting a chubby teenager in modeling school. It won’t help your self-esteem and it most likely will bruise your ego.
Step 2: How to find your target gallery:
It’s important to do your homework ahead of time and be discerning about where your artwork belongs in the art market. This is easy to do and you can start from home.
• Talk to your fellow artists and have them suggest galleries to you.
• Flip through art magazines and look at gallery ads and the artists they represent.
• Check out a variety of gallery websites and see if your work would be a good fit for them. If you create wildlife paintings, I don’t suggest approaching a gallery that specializes in abstract art. Although on occasion, this can work. For example: Years ago, I approached a gallery that primarily represented fine art glass vessels. I noticed that their walls were basically bare. I showed them my still life paintings and pitched doing a series of paintings with glass vases. They loved the idea and became an important gallery for me.
• Walk through the target gallery and scan the art, look how the art is hung and check the lighting.
• Try and visualize your art hanging in the gallery and see how it compares in quality to the artists they represent.
• Observe your target gallery through the eyes of a collector, not as an artist.
• Ask for a price sheet if available. See if your prices are within their price range.
• Pay close attention to how the staff greets and treats you. Are they courteous and professional?
Once you have a list of your favorite target galleries, be sure and get gallery references from a few of their artists. Also, if I’m not familiar with each gallery’s reputation, I make sure to call a few of the artists in their ‘stable’ as a referral; be sure and ask if the gallery pays them in a timely fashion.
Searching for the right gallery is a process of elimination. The more galleries that you research and visit, the more informed you’ll be about making the right choice.
So, now you have a short list of your target galleries – now what?
Step 3: Understand the protocol before you approach your target gallery:
It’s best to keep in mind that a successful gallery with a good reputation gets inundated with dozens of artists’ submissions each week. Because of this, you must do your best to stand out from the crowd.
Do your homework about the gallery’s ‘artist submission policy’ and follow their guidelines (which are usually online). Many galleries, especially within the high-end fine art market, have specific submission requirements and policies. This means usually artists must submit work for review.
Or, you can be a rebel, take your chances, and do it your own way!
However, if you follow the checklist above, you’ll feel well prepared to approach your ‘target gallery’ with confidence and good salesmanship. And remember, you’re an expert about your product, because your product is YOU!
Maybe you have another gallery finding technique that works for you. Please let us know—we all learn from each other! ~Lori
Lori McNee is an internationally recognized professional artist and art marketing expert who specializes in still life and landscape oil paintings. Lori shares valuable fine art tips, art business tips and social media advice on her blog, http://FineArtTips.com. Currently, Lori ranks as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter & was named a TwitterPowerhouse by The Huffington Post.