There is no magic formulae for approaching a gallery. But here are a few things to consider and look at when getting ready to submit your work to a gallery.
One of the biggest mistakes you can do as an artist is to pick the wrong kind of gallery to approach. No matter how good your work is, if you do painting and submit to a photography based gallery you are just wasting your time. While you are not always able to do so, if you can, don’t just look up the gallery on the internet, but also make a couple of visits to the gallery to see what kind of work they show. Just because a gallery shows paintings and you paint does not mean that the work fits either. If you are a classical painter and the gallery is contemporary you are also wasting your time. It takes a while, but you have to do your research, and see all the angles.
Now that you have found gallery that you think would be a fit for your work, the next step is the approach.
Again this is where you have to do your research. Check the galleries website and see if they are requirements for submitting works. Some will use a up-loading program, others will only take emails, and still others will only accepts cd’s or slides. Just submitting works is not enough, galleries put these guidelines for a reason. They want to be sure that you are seriously paying attention to their requirements and not just blindly submitting to galleries. That does not mean that all galleries have a preferred method of submitting work, some either are not interested in submissions while others will take cd’s or email submissions. Again this is where all that research comes in.
When submitting photos of your work, be sure that you submit high quality photos. (I will get into that later). also be sure that you submit your artists statement and bio. (I already covered those)
After you have met the requirements for submission, it is a waiting game. Don’t be shocked if you don’t hear back from the gallery. Many galleries (especially those in high gallery areas) usually get hundreds of submissions a week from artists who think that they deserve a spot in their gallery, they can’t respond to them all, they would never have time to run their business. But from time to time you will hear back. Definitely if they like your work, but sometimes if they think that your work is good but need some growth, and other times if they feel your work is not ready for their level.
Truthfully it is rare that you will get a response from a gallery from cold calling them. Myself I tend to stay away from this form of approaching galleries. As I have stated before it is best to be introduced to a space through other artists who have connections with a gallery or at art events. Most approaches I have made to galleries is through meeting gallery owners and getting to know them by talking about other artists works in their space or if we are at an exhibit or fair talking about the work there. One thing that will draw some attention to you as an artist is your ability to intellectually talk about art, not just agree with what they are saying about the art.
Here are some things to avoid when approaching a gallery.
1. Don’t try to introduce your art during another artist opening. That is disrespectful to the artist having the exhibit, and tells the gallery that you have no respect for their time. They put a lot into putting an exhibit together and the last thing they want to do is spend the night hearing about what you have to offer them.
2. When you don’t hear back from a gallery, don’t send them a letter or call them asking why you have not heard back. The sad truth is that most galleries don’t have a lot of consideration for artists time. They feel without them the artists would not have a place to show their work, and that it is all about them, while many wrists feel the opposite. Reminding them that they have not responded to your work will more than likely make them care less about your time, and you risk burning that possible connection. Best bet is to wait about a year and submit again with new work.
3. Don’t submit work more than two years old. Galleries want to see current work, not stuff that is sitting around your studio collecting dust. If you don’t have work within the last two years to show it says that you are a part time artist. Also don’t submit the same work the next time, if they didn’t respond the first time, it is unlikely they will respond to it a second time.
4. In this age of internet and mass media, don’t bad mouth a gallery or space on your Facebook, twitter or other media page. Also be respectful as you don’t know who might be reading what you are writing, the same goes for when you are out in the art world, you never know who you will be taking to, or who will be listening. Don’t burn bridges before you have them.
5. Never claim to be able to produce better work than what is currently being shown in a gallery. They put a lot of time and effort into a show and the last thing they want to hear is how what they are showing is bad art.
Always remember that art is subjective and that just because a gallery did not choose you this time does not mean that your art is not good, it just means that they don’t feel your work is a right fit for them. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told by one gallery that my work does not meet the standards, while others have chased me to have a show of the same work.