It takes a lot of courage, confidence, and organisation, as well as a strong sense of identity as an artist, to approach an art gallery. Getting your art accepted into a gallery can be difficult due to a variety of factors that are beyond your control, but don’t give up! Proper preparation and a strong commitment to your craft can help you stand out from the crowd. You can put your best foot forward when contacting an art gallery if you have some patience and an open mind.
Part 1 Assembling Your Portfolio Materials
1. Create a physical and digital portfolio of your most recent art samples. Collect some really high-quality art that you’ve finished in the last few weeks or months. Select some artwork that truly reflects your identity and abilities as an artist. Put any physical copies of your art in a sheet-protected binder that you can easily flip through. Upload some of your artwork to a personal portfolio site to go the extra mile.
To create a portfolio website, you can use simple, free site builders such as Wix or WordPress.
As an added precaution, scan any physical drawings or non-digital art pieces to your computer so you can access them.
2. Create an artist statement that describes your area of interest. Consider the core elements of your art that set it apart from the work of other artists. Make a list of the mediums you use and the types of projects you enjoy working on. Finally, shed some light on your creative process, such as how you get from point A to point B. Because it will be included in your portfolio materials, you should keep your artist statement to between 100 and 300 words.
Simply put, write down the “what,” “why,” and “how” of your artwork.
An artist statement is an excellent place to discuss your influences and inspirations.
For example, you could say, “I’m a digital artist who uses wet medium brushes to create abstract watercolour portraits.” My art encourages viewers to reflect on their own identities, allowing them to have a more fulfilling journey while viewing my work. To give my art a sense of detachment, I like to paint the colours one at a time.”
3. Include a brief cover letter in your portfolio. Create a brief but engaging letter that describes both you as an artist and your artistic style. Provide a brief, engaging explanation of why you’re contacting the gallery so the gallerist knows what to expect from you.
For example, you could write something like:
“To whoever it may concern:
I believe that art should tell a storey, and I’d like to share mine with you. My name is Jessica Simon, and I’m a freelance digital artist trying to make a name for myself in the world. I’ve admired your art gallery’s sense of identity for many years and would love to be a part of it.”
4. Set a standard price range for your artwork. Consider how much you usually sell your artwork for or what your commission rates are. Create a price list for the various commissions and art styles you typically offer to clients. As you calculate the price, make a note of the dimensions of each piece of art.
For example, digital flat colour portraits can be listed for $60, cell shaded portraits for $90, and digital paintings for $120.
For each item on your price list, specify the exact medium.
5. Create a biography for the gallery. Write a brief paragraph describing your artistic background as well as your most notable accomplishments. Discuss some of your most well-known exhibits, as well as any other pertinent information. If possible, keep this to one paragraph.
Your biography can go on the same page as your artist statement.
For example, you could write, “My name is Claire Murphy, and I’ve been studying digital art for over ten years.” I received a magna cum laude from Pratt Institute for my work, which received numerous accolades.”
6. Make a resume that highlights your professional qualifications. Include any formal art education you’ve had on your CV, as well as any special awards you’ve received over the years. Mention any exhibits you’ve been a part of, as well as any publications that have featured your work. If you’ve previously shown your work in a gallery, include that information on your CV as well.
You can, for example, include a list of your most well-known artworks as well as any awards you’ve received for your work.
7. Create a social media profile to gain a following. Gallerists are more likely to take artists with a large following seriously. Encourage your fans and supporters to join a mailing list or to contribute to a social media account dedicated to your art.
You may be able to bring a lot of foot traffic to the gallery if you have a large following.
If you have any major social media pages, include them on your CV.
You can also build a sizable fan base on an art website or blog.
Part 2 Interacting with Galleries
1. Look for art galleries in your area that suit your tastes. Look for galleries within a reasonable driving distance of your home. Look through their website to see what kinds of art they usually have on display. If your artistic identity does not mesh well with the gallery’s artistic preferences, you should consider taking your business elsewhere.
For example, if you frequently create abstract paintings, you will not want to submit your work to a gallery that specialises in realistic landscape paintings.
Some galleries’ works may not be available online. In this case, you may want to visit the company in person.
2. If you want to introduce yourself, send a simple email. Create a brief, engaging email in which you tell the gallery a little bit about yourself as an artist and your own interests in the gallery. Make your email as personalised as possible so that your query stands out from the crowd of other artists.
For example, you could say something like, “Greetings! My name is Andrew Nelson, and I’ve been painting in oil for the past five years. I truly admire the gallery’s strong sense of identity in their oil paintings, and I’d be delighted to meet with you.”
This method of communication is risky because many galleries dislike being cold called by prospective artists. If you choose to contact a gallerist in this manner, make sure your message is concise and to the point.
3. If the gallery has a mailing list, sign up for it. Check online or in person to see if the art gallery has an email list to which you can subscribe. This small gesture shows the gallery that you want to build a relationship with them and that you care about the gallery’s future.
When signing up for any mailing list, use your professional email address to stay organised. You don’t want work-related emails to end up in your inbox!
Tip: Another great way to keep up with an art gallery is to follow them on social media. You can also participate by leaving comments on their posts and updates!
4. Attend gallery events to build a relationship. Check the gallery’s calendar to see if any exhibits or other events are scheduled in the coming weeks and months. Attend these events and speak with the gallery owners and curators. Focus on developing a positive, friendly relationship with these people rather than selling yourself as an artist.
If you have a good relationship with the gallerists, it will be much easier to get your foot in the door.
For example, you could approach a gallerist as follows: “Hello! Thank you so much for having us all here tonight. Hello, my name is Sarah Marshall, and I am a huge fan of the gallery. Do you have any favourites from this collection?”
5. Distribute business cards that summarise your qualifications. Print a set of distinct, stylish business cards that reflect your artistic identity. Include a logo or your initials, as well as your email, portfolio website, phone number, and any other contact information, on the card. Distribute these to any casual or professional acquaintances you meet—it may help you stand out from the crowd!
Part 3 Submitting Your Work
1. Before submitting your artwork, make sure to read the gallery’s submission guidelines. Check online and ask the gallerists in person to see what materials you need to submit. There are no hard and fast rules for this application process; some gallerists prefer hard copies of your portfolio, while others prefer something more digital. Before submitting your work, double-check the exact submission requirements.
Try not to be an overachiever! If a gallery requests 15 samples, simply send 15. They’re probably swamped with applications and don’t have time to sift through 50 different samples of your work.
Some galleries may not be accepting submissions. Respect their wishes and do not send in any unsolicited art samples if this is the case.
2. Inquire about scheduling an appointment with a gallerist. Call or come in to the gallery and ask to speak with a gallerist. Express your interest in working with the gallery and request a meeting to discuss potential opportunities.
For example, you could say something like, “Good morning! Do you take in-person appointments with prospective gallery artists?”
Even if the gallerists are unwilling to meet with you, they may be able to recommend some galleries that are looking for new talent.
3. Give a 20-minute presentation about your artistic process. Don’t waste your appointment time with idle chatter! Instead, talk about your artistic identity and the creative process you use. Describe your plans for a collection or series if you’re working on one.
For example, you could say, “I’m currently working on an abstract portrait series that represents each zodiac sign.” These paintings represent a collective sense of human identity, and I hope to complete them in the next two months.”
You can make your presentation stand out by providing small refreshments to the gallerist.
4. Display recent examples of your work in an updated portfolio. Whether you’re submitting your portfolio to the gallery or presenting it during an in-person appointment, only include artwork that you’ve created in the last few weeks or months. Gallerists are interested in what you can do now, not what you were working on six years ago.
Galleries are unlikely to want to work with you if you don’t have any recent work.
5. If you are accepted by a gallery, you must pay the required commission fees. Keep in mind that most galleries will take at least 40% of the commission on your artwork. Don’t make a big deal out of it or try to raise your selling prices—consider the commission payment as a cost of exposure.
It is unprofessional to try to raise your prices after learning about the gallery’s commission costs.
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