Want to see your artwork hanging in galleries? What artist wouldn’t. But there is a right way and a wrong way to approach gallery owners and curators. If you approach them the wrong way it won’t matter how good your art is. They won’t want to represent you. To get you on the right track here’s a list of 7 dos and 7 don’ts when trying to get your art on the walls of galleries.
1. Don’t look for galleries to represent your work before you’ve sold any on your own. The gallery will want to know where your work as shown before, how much you have sold, and if you have won any awards. If haven’t sold any of your work yet then you are jumping ahead. Do some art fairs. Small local ones count. Keep a list of everything you sell.
2. Do get out there and sell at craft shows, yard sales, juried art shows, any where you can to prove your work is sellable to a gallery. Don’t forget online, too, at places like Etsy, ebay, Art America, or Amazon. Keep a list of everything you sell and where your work has been displayed. If your work wins any awards record that as well. Think of this information as your resume. To the gallery it will be proof your work is sellable.
3. Don’t assume that all galleries sell every type of art. They don’t. Some specialize in photography, some in paintings only. It will do you no good and waste the time of the gallery if you do black and white photography and the gallery specializes in oil paintings. Do your homework. Only submit to galleries that are appropriate.
4. Do research galleries and visit them to see what type of art they represent before contacting them. Visit their webpage if they are too far away to visit in person. See if they have any calls for artists or specific times of the year they review portfolios. Find out how they prefer to be approached and how they want your work to be presented.
5. Don’t show up at the art gallery with all of your work without an appointment. Gallery owners and curators are busy and normally have specific times they meet artists. Nothing frustrates a gallery owner more than an artist who shows up with all their work demanding to be seen. Don’t be this type of artist.
6. Do research the galleries that represent the type of work you do to find out how and when they like to be contacted by new artists. On most gallery websites you will find information on how to be considered for the gallery. At The Fine Arts Company where I work we have a form for the artists to fill out before coming in. Here’s a link to our form: Call For Artists
7. Don’t call, email, or visit a gallery (unless your shopping) that you have submitted to asking whether they are interested or not. Again, gallery owners and curators are busy people. They don’t have time to respond back to every artist inquiry, only the ones they are interested in.
8. Do wait for the gallery to contact you, and if they don’t, assume they are not interested. Yes, if they don’t contact you back they are not interested in your work. It doesn’t mean your work is bad. It means your work may not fit the gallery or they may already have a similar artist and don’t want more work that looks the same.
9. Don’t make it hard for a gallery to find you and see your work. Most galleries to save time want to be able to view your work online. They don’t have time to meet every artist in person . They will be more likely to consider you if you have a presence online. Galleries sometimes search the internet looking for new talent. They won’t find you if you aren’t on the web.
10. Do have a strong presence on the internet and do juried shows, and craft fairs to show that your work can sell. There are so many free places you can display your work online. There is no excuse for not having a web presence. If you don’t understand computers and don’t want to take the time to learn then hire someone to create a web presence for you. Ask your kids, nieces, or nephews. Chances are someone in your family can help you out.
11. Don’t show up with your work still wet or not ready to hang. This will make you look very unprofessional. The gallery doesn’t have time to get your work ready for display for you. You need to do your homework ahead of time and only bring work that is completed. An oil painting needs six months to dry so you’re going to have to wait.
12. Do check the galleries website, or email and ask, for mounting and framing requirements to hang your work. Some galleries will require all pieces to have wire for hanging. Some will require sawtooth. Some may only take pieces on canvas, no frames. It’s your job to find out ahead of time and have your work ready when asked to bring it in. We like all of our work to be matted and framed with wire on the back for hanging unless your work is on canvas. The canvas will still need hanging wire on the back.
13. Don’t leave your work with any gallery without a contract. What happens if your work disappears? What if it sells? How much do you get? Who knows without a contract. It doesn’t matter what the gallery verbally told you. You need it in writing.
14. Do bring your own contract or read over the galleries and make sure everything is written down that is agreed upon. The contract should have everyone’s contact info, what works you are leaving, what their prices are, what percentage of the sale the gallery will be keeping, when will you get paid for each sale, what happens if a piece is damaged or stolen. You get the picture. Spell out everything so there is no difficulty between you and the gallery.
Follow these tips and you’ll look like a pro and have no trouble getting your work into galleries.