But what’s next? How do you actually go about getting your artwork into a gallery? And even more importantly, how do you find a gallery that’s right for YOU?
Here are my suggestions as you begin your search:
Start close and work outward
If you’re fortunate enough to have a gallery or two within driving distance, take the time to personally visit each one. Go incognito, though! Don’t announce yourself as an artist who is looking for gallery representation. Just visit them like any other person walking in off the street.
During your visit, keep a couple things in mind:
1. How does the staff treats visitors and potential customers?
How quickly are you greeted, and in what manner? The ideal gallery staff members are those who are quick to acknowledge your presence and greet you, but who aren’t pushy or overbearing.
Politeness goes a long way, and that includes allowing a customer to browse if that’s all they really want. Staff members who are overly aggressive in attempting to make a sale will turn off your potential collectors just as quickly as they will turn you off.
If you don’t like the way they approach and treat you, there is no need to go further—you wouldn’t want your own (future) collectors to deal with that either.
2. What kind of artwork is being exhibted?
Take a good look at the artwork on display. Especially note the medium, size, and subject matter. (There are other factors, but these three will probably be the most important.)
Does your work fit into the collection you see? If it isn’t a solid fit, will it at least complement the current work or future exhibits?
If your work is very different in several ways, the gallery may not even be interested in representing you—and that’s OK, because you can see that your work isn’t a good fit for them, either.
3. How good is the exhibit space and building?
Step back from the artwork and look at your surroundings. Is the space open enough to view large pieces at a distance? Is the artwork well-lit? Do the interior colors enhance the artwork without intruding on it?
Also important—is the building in good repair? You should be more concerned with signs of structural problems like leaking windows or water stains on the ceiling than with surface problems like peeling paint or a little bit of rust on a handrail, but all of those things could indicate a gallery that isn’t doing very well financially.
All of these questions should help you decide if the gallery is a good fit for your art, but keep in mind, collectors will also notice these same things as well. So don’t ignore what your gut is telling you. . . potential buyers will be feeling it too!
Narrow down a list of long-distance galleries
If the galleries you like aren’t within driving distance, you can still visit their websites and learn quite a bit —perhaps even enough to make your decision.
Some of the same questions apply as before. . . is the website up-to-date? Is the content well-written, with proper grammar and good spelling? Are the images large enough to see on your screen?
If there are images showing the interior, what can you tell about the exhibit space? You should be able to get a good idea of how the gallery looks, just by perusing the images they choose to publish.
What about contact information? Can you easily find the name and telephone number or email address of the person to call if you see something you want to buy or ask about?
If the website has all of these things and the artwork is well-presented and of good quality, the chances are good you will find the same thing if you visited the gallery. You still want to make an in-person visit if at all possible, but you can most likely rule out some galleries simply based on their website.
Additional suggestions for finding a gallery
Don’t skip over galleries outside your usual market. Certainly, start with the galleries that cater to your specific type of art and subject-matter. . . but don’t forget to look into galleries that carry works in a variety of subjects and media that are somehow similar (even if not identical) to your own artwork.
For example: if you paint with a high degree of finish and fine detail, look for that kind of work by other artists—no matter whether they’re painting landscapes, portraits, abstracts, etc.
In other words, some galleries might welcome an artist who specializes in a different subject matter, as long as the work is of the same general quality as the rest of their artists.
And if none of the galleries you look into are a good fit for one reason or another, don’t give up. . . just spread your search a bit wider, and give it more time.
If all else fails, you can always team up with a few other artists and start your own!