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The Art of the Cover Letter: Tips and an Example

November 26, 2009

abstract orange paintingWhen you apply for art shows, there will be a few things that the gallery will ask you to submit: a statement, a CV and examples of your work. Galleries won’t ask for them, but there are also a few other must-have elements of your exhibition proposal. One of these is a cover letter.

A well-crafted cover letter shows a certain amount of professionalism. It tells the gallery curator that you take yourself seriously.

Think of your cover letter as your introduction. It lets the gallery know who you are, what you do, and most importantly, why they should exhibit your work.

Some tips for writing your exhibition proposal cover letter are…

  • Use a formal letter format that includes the addresses of both parties and the date.
  • Try to find out who the curator or exhibition coordinator is and address the letter specifically to that person. Use Mr. or Ms. to show respect. If you don’t know who the curator is, use a greeting like “To the Selection Committee,” or “To the Curator.”
  • Briefly describe your artwork: its physical appearance as well as your artistic approach.
  • Describe what it is about your work that makes it unique. This is the most important part because it’s your chance to snag your reader’s attention and make them want to look at your images!
  • Keep it simple and to the point. Remember, anyone wanting more information can read the rest of your proposal.
  • Let your reader know what documents they can expect to find within the proposal.
  • Include all of your contact information, including mailing address, phone number, and email address.
  • Don’t forget to sign it!

Unless a gallery spefically asks you for only certain documents (and nothing more), it’s a good idea to include a cover letter with your proposal. It may not be read, but at least it’s there if someone wants to! Sometimes, when you have an exhibit, galleries will use words or phrases from your cover letter in their promotional material.

Here is an example of a cover letter based on the one from my first exhibition proposal. You, of course, would use information specific to your art!

 Jane Doe
55555 ABC Road,
Somewhere, CA
G3B 6L7
(555) 555-5555
Janedoe@email.com

November, 26, 2009

John Smith, Executive Director
Really Cool Gallery
555 XYZ St
Somewhere Else, CA
H3S 7J8

Dear Mr. Smith,

Please accept this proposal as submission for an exhibition at Really Cool Gallery.

As a formalist, my work is about space and the relationship between shapes. However, the work itself is a unique hybrid of painting and sculpture. It is made up of layers of thin door skin, and there is a contradiction between the flatness of the door skin and the three-dimensionality the layering produces.

My work also takes a form that challenges accepted ideas of what art should look like. It appears deceptively random, but the balanced composition is obviously intentional. There is a strange beauty in these objects, although they seem like they could have been made out of scraps from the garbage.

Please find the following enclosed: an artist statement, an artist CV, an exhibition proposal, a CD with fifteen digital images, an image list, a print of my work, and a press clipping.

Thank you for your consideration of my proposal.

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

This article is part of my ongoing series on how to get your art into galleries. Next, I’ll focus on the artists’ CV, or curriculum vitae, perhaps one of the most important elements of your proposal. Subscribe via email to get the latest articles in your inbox!

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6 Comments
  1. Hi Miranda, this is so interesting and useful, thanks so much for sharing all this information here on your blog! And I know that a post like that is hard work! I’ll suscribe to your blog via email right now, so that I won’t miss your posts. Have a great week,
    love
    Andrea

    • Good to know this was useful, Andrea! I try to provide information that was useful to me when I was starting out, and things that I had to figure out on my own. Thanks for subscribing!

  2. Good Job Miranda!
    Very generous of you to share all this important information that will help artists on the long hard journey…

  3. Miranda, your expertise is just wonderful! I was also interested in the sharing of your experience’s through selling on the web. I’ll be stopping by more often. All the best…Phyllis

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