I am sometimes asked how I approach galleries to sell my art. I don’t profess to be an expert on this, but as I have been selling work in galleries for about 20 years, I can pass on some of my experiences in getting my work out there.
There are a few ways that this can happen.
1. By Invitation
This is by far the best way. The ice has already been broken because someone has recommended you to a gallery and the gallery owner has already seen your work.
It is then up to the artist to follow up by making an appointment to see the gallery curator. I would also ensure that your work is a good ‘fit’ for the type of gallery before making the appointment. Be selective when thinking about where you would like to show your work. And I recommend you check out the finer details such as payment and costs.
2. Find a Gallery You Like
When you find a gallery that you like, visit now and then to build a relationship with the owner.
By all means, mention that you are an artist but do not take your work until you are invited to do so. Sometimes this can take several months, and at other times the owner might want to see your work sooner. Just be aware of the signs and drop the idea if there is no interest. You will feel the vibe!
A common complaint that I hear from gallery owners is that they are often swamped with artists dropping in with paintings and expecting them to take them on the spot. If the gallery shows interest, make an appointment for when the curator has the time to see you and your work. Be flexible and only take your best work well framed and finished. Definitely not still wet!
3. Make a Portfolio of your Work
Create a portfolio of your work and leave it in the car. You never know when an opportunity may arise to show your work.
If a gallery shows interest, you can ask if they have the time to see your portfolio or would like to make an appointment for another occasion.
4. Approaching a Gallery Online
When approaching a gallery online, go to their Contact Page and send a short email introducing yourself with a link to your website.
Also, make sure that you have actually looked at their website to determine if your work would ‘fit’ in that type of gallery. Perhaps you could mention the reason why you like their gallery.
Please note though that many times you won’t get a reply. Galleries are swamped with such requests every day, but hey, nothing ventured nothing gained! Always ask for an appointment to discuss your work.
5. Get to Know the Gallery
It really is worth spending the time to get to know a gallery even before approaching them to sell your art. Ask others who have exhibited there for feedback on how they conduct their business and whether or not it was a good experience for them. I have heard some horror stories. However, I have rarely had a bad experience.
Most gallery owners although busy people, in my experience, are fair to deal with. Just remember the etiquette of not being too pushy, make appointments and keep them. After all, you want it to be a good working relationship right from the beginning. If they don’t love your work, then that gallery isn’t for you.
6. A Final Note
It is considered bad form to promote your art at another artist’s exhibition opening. I have seen this happen and it always makes me cringe and only looks bad.
The opening of an exhibition is an artist’s time to shine. The time and money that has been spent on organising an exhibition are usually major, so please respect the exhibiting artist by promoting yourself at another time!