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Get Your Art Into a Gallery

November 6, 2009

I’m going to shift gears a little bit here away from drawing lessons and towards self-promotion. Maybe you do your art purely for yourself, but at the end of the day most artists want their work to be seen. Getting a show at a gallery may seem like an impossible task, but like most things, all it requires is some research, hard work and persistence.

About Galleries

The first thing to realize is that there are different kinds of galleries. The first is a commercial gallery, which operates like a store. The gallery exists to sell art, the employees function as salespeople. Often, these galleries will “represent” artists, which means that they exhibit a number of artists work all at the same time.

The second tyep of gallery is a fine art gallery. These galleries host exhibits from single artists or groups of artists throughout the year. Exhibits generally last for a month or two, sometimes three. The goal of these galleries is education and awareness. The emphasis is not on sales, but on bringing art to the public.

Both types will take a commission from any sales, usually between 30-50%.

You need to choose the gallery that is right for you. If your work is very contemporary and edgy, or experimental in form or materials, you would fit into a fine art gallery better. If your focus is on creating aesthetically pleasing art that is sell-able, you would want to try a commercial gallery. Some artists find they are able to do both; it really depends on your work and how you approach it.

How to Make Your Approach

Some people find success just by walking in and talking to the owner. Not everyone is comfortable doing this, not to mention some galleries actively discourage it! Gallery owners simply don’t have the time to sit down and talk to every artist who walks in off the street.

Your best course of action is to see if the gallery has a website. Most galleries that have websites will have a page that outlines their submission guidelines. Some galleries ask for proposals to be mailed, some to be e-mailed and some ask for the artist’s web address. Follow each and every instruction on these guidelines. Galleries get many more proposals than they can accept, so don’t give them any reason not to consider yours!

If you can’t find any submission guidelines, send the gallery a proposal package including a cover letter, an artist statement, your CV, and examples of your work. Check out my article on exhibition proposals for more information.

What About the Art?

Galleries put a lot of importance on the written components of exhibition proposals, but they ultimately want to show good work. Your artist statement is what will open the door for you, the quality and cohesiveness of your work will keep it from slamming in your face!

Before submitting to any galleries, you want to have a solid body of work. This means having about a dozen quality pieces that show a theme. You don’t want to submit a watercolour landscape sketch and a collaged drawing with a graphite portrait and an abstract pastel piece. Every piece should work individually as well as add up to a cohesive group of art.

Make sure you have some good quality documentatin of your works. No blurriness or glares from the camera flash. Natural light is the best for documenting art. Take your pieces outside on a slightly overcast day to get good pictures, and use a tripod to prevent blurring.

This is just an introduction to getting into an art gallery. In the next few weeks I’ll talk about how to choose the right gallery, how to document artwork, and how to put together the different elements of your proposal. To get the latest articles in your inbox, sign up for my email subscription!

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