Many artists I encounter are pinning all of their hopes on getting into a gallery. Most of them are adopting this outlook prematurely. In other words, they aren’t even close to ready for galleries.
This leads to unhealthy expectations, which only results in disappointment and a sense of failure.
Don’t get me wrong. I think galleries are a great way to go for some artists, but you must be realistic about the process. You have to understand what’s required for getting and keeping gallery representation.
With that in mind, here’s a checklist of what you’ll need before you start approaching galleries.
This isn’t a guide for actively approaching galleries, only for your preparedness.
1. Learn patience.
Gallery representation is earned. It happens after years of hard work in the studio and schmoozing at openings and events.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
2. Practice resilience.
There’s too much art hiding in studios, basements, and garages.
If you have a problem with overflowing inventory, especially a lot of earlier art that you aren’t excited about showing, how about finding new homes for that work? At the same time, you’ll create room for new art, support a good cause, and earn income.
Organize a Fundraiser
Yep, I’m talking about a fundraiser.
Now before you cut me off because you think I’m going to tell you to donate your art, hang tight. Just the opposite is true because you’re going to make money on this fundraiser.
There must be a cause that is close to your heart: animals, the environment, education, an art
Are you still diddling around with juried shows or exhibitions with your art group?
There’s nothing wrong with either one of these as a starting point, but there comes a time when you have to leave the nest. You have to plan a solo exhibition.
Your career will grow rapidly when you start having solo exhibitions of your art.
Dora Ficher’s solo show “El Balle de Colores” at Gold Standard Café in Philadelphia, PA.
Solo shows are the pinnacle of an artist’s career, but in most artists’ dreams they usually take place at fine galleries and museums.
Those prestigious venues will happen for those who persevere. In the beginning, you will probably need to curate your solo show for less lofty places.
There are all kinds of opportunities for artists to show and to sell their work.
Your inbox probably has an email from a rich oil sheik in Qatar who wants to buy your art right now.
What do you do? How can you tell the good opportunities from those you should avoid?
My advice is always to trust first and to be cautious second and most importantly.
Janice McDonald, Helen Hiebert, and Alyson. Helen had a fantastic working experience with a Denver-area library that purchased her piece (above) titled The Wish.
As with everything in your art business, the onus is on you to verify all of the facts. Here’s how you do that.
Visit When You Can
Peruse online gallery sites for signs
Imagine the scenario: A patron visits your open studio event, walks around for a few minutes, and asks, “Are these for sale?” Or this version: A friend shares an image of your art that you posted on Facebook. Hundreds of people see it and a handful wish they could own it. But they think they can’t afford it because there’s no price. So they forget about it and move on.
If you become an effective artist rep, the world is your oyster. Many artists will be knocking at your door. You might find them lining up in the comments here. And I will want to interview you to see how you made it happen. I’m not saying it can’t happen. I’m just skeptical.
So you have heard about this thing called “art licensing” and it sounds pretty good! You can earn income by licensing the same art to multiple manufacturers to use on different products. “Sounds great!” you think. “Where do I sign up!” you ask. “Hold onto your paintbrushes!” I say. Before you start putting a lot of time and energy thinking about the dream that is art licensing, you need to understand the reality of how to succeed in the industry.
As a gallery artist, you have a responsibility to help commercial gallerists sell your art. Last week I wrote about the galleries’ responsibility to you at an exhibition opening. Now let’s talk about your role. What should galleries expect of you and from you at an opening? Above All . . . Ask a lot of questions.
Does the idea of approaching a gallery make you tremble in your boots? Guest blogger Ruth Soller shares her 7 step process that has earned representation for her in two new galleries this year – alongside nationally known artists.
Approach the making of the labels you place next to your artwork with thoughtfulness and common sense. At a bare minimum, your wall labels should include your name, object title, and media/support/technique. A retrospective of your work should also include the dates.