Be Professional – think in terms of a job interview – what can you offer the Gallery?
Have a Good, consistent body of work – You should have 10 to 20 strong works available. Think in terms of a SOLO show. What pieces work well together? A Gallery doesn’t necessarily need to see your realistic figure drawings if your focus is Urban Landscapes. Galleries want to see that you have a direction!
Have good quality photographs of your work and have them digitally available as well. Most Galleries prefer digital images (on CD) over slides. Many Museums and Juried competitions however still require slides.
Have a postcard or other visual the Gallery can keep on file, which is representative of the kind of work you do.
Research the Gallery first – again, think in terms of job hunting, and researching an employer. What kinds of work do they show? It doesn’t do you any good to submit work to Galleries that don’t sell your style of work. Ask questions. Are they looking for new artists, do they only show established artists? Find out what their submittal criteria is and follow it!
Have a simple, well written artist statement without the use of “Artspeak”. Use language the average collector can appreciate. The Gallery may appreciate it, but they need to be able to translate that to the average collector. Really think about your work and what makes it different, or better, or interesting. What motivates you? What influences you?
Have a record of exhibitions or awards or not? Even if your exhibitions are limited list where you have shown. List any Art Consultants you have worked with, juried competitions entered or CO-OP Galleries shown with. If you haven’t shown make every effort to start showing. Again this is like a job interview and any experience no matter how small reads at a minimum like an internship.
Respect the Gallery and realize that the Gallery owner is also trying to make a living in the art world, and has a great deal of expenses and time involved, beyond just “hanging art”. Know that most Gallery owners are also artists or art lovers and have the same passion for art that you do.
Know it is an interdependent relationship - you both need each other. The easier you make it to sell the work, the more they will sell. Also, know there are other options for exhibiting and selling your work, so if it doesn’t work out other options will present themselves.
Don’t take it personally. It is not personal. Sometimes the Gallery has a specific Niche, which is valuable to know before you approach them. Is it conceptual, western art, glass art, works on paper, etc.?
Alyson Stanfield - I’d Rather Be In The Studio: The Artist’s No Excuse Guide to Self Promotion - Fantastic book providing practical and no nonsense career guidance for aspiring artists. Read this book first.
Caroll Michels – How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist – Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul. Professional Art World guidance written by a career coach for artists, outlining many different possibilities.
Cay Lang – Taking the Leap – Building a Career as a Visual Artist – A clear roadmap for how to build a career from the beginning. Written by a professional, exhibiting artist.