Choosing the Right Gallery
- On September 14, 2016
So you’re producing consistent artwork, had some juried or group shows, and are ready to approach a gallery for representation. How do you find one that’s right for you? More to the point, how do you find a gallery you are right for?
Choosing (and being chosen by) a gallery is a significant step in the career of any artist. Making art takes time, so does showing it. Don’t expect to find a gallery overnight. Ultimately, exhibiting your art in the wrong gallery – even if they accept you into their stable – does not benefit your career and continued development. Prior to submitting your work, get to know the gallery as much as possible from an outsider’s perspective. Look comprehensively at their website, talk to other artists about their experiences with the gallery, and visit in person as a fact-finding mission. On this visit, play it cool. Resist the urge to talk about your work, take up too much of the gallery staff’s time, or accidentally use up an opportunity to connect with the gallerist which would have been better used when you were fully prepared.
In whatever way you can, determine answers to the following questions:
- What is their agenda?
- What is their history?
- Who are the founders?
- When was the gallery opened and under what conditions?
- How is art labeled, organized, and presented?
- What type of artists do they represent?
- Is their art stylistically similar to yours?
- Do they have comparable resumes?
- Are they emerging or established artists?
- Do they tend to exhibit local artists or focus more on national and international?
- What price ranges do they typically sell in?
- What are their politics?
- How do they communicate with their client base?
- Can you (honestly) see your art being a strong addition to their offering?
- How do they prefer to be submitted to (if at all)?
The goal here is to ensure (before the approach) that your work is not only a stylistic fit, but also a cultural fit. Your vision for what you want from exhibiting must align with what the gallery represents and you must know the correct channel for conveying this to the gallery.
Be completely honest with yourself at all times and respect that your resume has to match your art. Even if the work is exceptional, you may not be chosen for representation because of a lack in reputation, experience, accomplishments, profile, standing in the art community, personality, previous sales history, quality of reviews, etc. At the end of the day, people work with who they want to work with, so remember that the relationship you build with the gallery is as important as the art you present.
After conducting all necessary research and only if you are a reasonable match for the gallery, go on to preparing the pitch. Good luck!
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By Melanie Bindon, Art Gym Denver