Continued from Approaching Museums and Galleries: Introduction
For-Profit Commercial Galleries
It is likely that you will want to establish yourself in your home-town or region before trying to approach New York, L.A., Paris….unless of course one of those is your hometown.....
So, you can best learn about your regional galleries by visiting them – start by attending receptions for example. Get to know the people involved in the galleries you like. You should be visiting many galleries, because you must find the galleries that will be a good fit for your work. Only approaching a high-end well-known gallery that specializes in abstract oil paintings will not help you if you make realistic watercolors, or highly conceptual videos, etc. Once you have a feel for which galleries are promoting work in sync with yours, the next step arrives.
There are many ways to approach galleries: one good way to start is to check the website for information on how/if the gallery likes to receive unsolicited submissions. If there is no information – try calling to ask, and if all else fails visit again and ask. If they have a policy of accepting submissions one good way to start was suggested by Gina Fraone in ArtScope Magazine March/April 2010: bring a high quality print of a representative work (with your contact information on the back) and deliver it face up – no envelope - to the desk of the director if possible. You can follow this up with a mailed or hand-delivered promotional packet (Sample packet might include: carefully crafted cover letter, a CD of properly sized images with a document of specific information about the work, and less than a dozen really good prints of the work).
Very rarely will a gallery director be wildly happy to have an artist drop in unannounced, without an appointment, armed with a portfolio filled with actual work. An artist approaching a gallery often only sees the fact that they have great work that would be great in that gallery – but they forget that most galleries have a full schedule one to two years out, of artist shows planned with the long-term artists that they already represent. That leaves only a few openings (if any) in any year for an unplanned show. However, your work does no one any good if it hidden away in your studio, so you must get the work out there, become your own best advocate – and keep trying. If you do get an opportunity to formally present the work at the gallery, or at a studio visit – please remember that your demeanor and professionalism are important. Your are asking to enter into a professional relationship with the gallery, so many of the things valuable on a job interview make some sense here too.
Be patient with rejection, galleries are inundated with artists sending work for review. If you create a new body of work, don’t hesitate to try again in a gallery you feel might be a good fit, but declined to show the earlier body of work.
While you are working on finding a gallery to show your work, consider also getting the work out in alternative venues or competitions. (Later posts will address these options) Get feedback on your work from people whose opinion you respect, especially those active in the art world. Build a website of your work, it is hard to work in the art wold without one - and it doesn't have to be expensive or fancy. One extremely easy way to create a site is through Other Peoples Pixels, a highly user-friendly artist-run artist-created service. If you have some jpegs of your work, a resume, and just a couple of hours a time, you can create a personalized and professional site very quickly. Don't forget to also get onto social networks like Facebook and establish a presence on the web in that additional way. Consider starting a blog that will allow to post your work and philosophy.
Have your very best work prepared to hang in a professional manner – It is important to have the work look great when you do get to present it to the gallery – and it shows you take your own work seriously. So don’t use a cheap frame (unless that is a conceptual component of the work), and if you want to hang the work unframed, be purposeful about that conceptually too. Be patient, be consistent, don't give up, but don't repeat mistakes that are not helping you reach your goal - gallery representation.