We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes.John F. Kennedy
Let’s think about this, for starters. When you are looking for galleries, you’ve got your hopes up naturally. And in the process, your emotions, whether enthusiasm or desperation, can cause you to lower your guard, which is dangerous.
The more you crave recognition from a gallery, the more you need to keep up your guard and awareness of the situation. Unsavory individuals with ill intent know how to use your emotions against you. You’re only defense is self-awareness and knowledge because such situations are always a real possibility.
Stay Calm and Avoid Seductive Come-ons.
Unfortunately, some sophisticated operators use their insights on artists’ hopes to prey on artists’ eagerness to establish their reputation. Vanity galleries are an example. Never pay to be in a gallery. Doing so is more likely to belittle your work than elevate it.
Vanity magazines are the same racket only in print instead of a gallery. There are pay-to-play online galleries to avoid as well. My first advice in part one of this series is to research galleries that fit your art. But it also means investigating to avoid getting suckered.
There are far more legit galleries than the few bad actors. However, not all are equal business operators among genuine gallerists, which is valuable intel careful research may find for you. Just don’t be so eager to get representation that you’re not as thorough in your approach and dealings with galleries as necessary. You’re all you’ve got to protect yourself. Be logical and use common sense.
Make It Legal. Get It in Writing.
It may be fine art, but it’s still a business deal. Oral contracts are not worth the paper they are written on. You need an agreement that is specific on all aspects of consigning your work to a gallery. It must cover payment terms, including royalty percentages and payment timelines and shipping responsibilities, and insurance coverage.
You have zero protection without a contract. Anyone suggesting anything less than a legally binding agreement is signaling they are unscrupulous or careless. Both are red warning flags to stay away, and likewise, if you don’t register a sense of respect for yourself and your work from the gallery owner.
When You Know Your Value, You Can Walk Away
Earlier in this series on how to get into art galleries, I emphasized the value and attractiveness of confidence in yourself. Well, the same is true of how you feel about your work. It shows when you believe your work has value.
Understanding how your actions and beliefs shape how others feel about your work is a significant way to boost your work’s value in their minds and yours. Your sincere belief will give you clarity and fortitude to avoid tempting business deals that are not suitable for your business or reputation.
Be mindful of all that is happening around you when working on getting into a gallery. Use your instincts and insights to know when to close a deal with a gallery. You want to sense the gallery owner has genuine respect for your work. If you don’t get a believable commitment from them to market your artwork, you should walk away.
How to Find Art Galleries Appropriate for Your Work.
Back to research. I recommend using a map tool to draw concentric circles around where you live. Start with what’s in a one-day drive from where you live. By drawing a 400-mile radius around my home in Phoenix, Arizona, I find I can get to Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Tucson, Santa Fe, Taos, Albuquerque, and Durango, CO.
Depending on your location, you likely have hundreds of galleries within a day’s drive. No matter what others say, nothing beats face-to-face presentations. Your success rate increases, you learn more, and you are more likely to get valuable feedback on rejections when you present your work in person.
And should an emergency arise that requires you to retrieve your work quickly, a short drive is advantageous. You don’t need to complicate things with distance when you begin seeking art gallery representation.
Build an Online Gallery Database.
The next step is an online search for art galleries in a city, state, or region. Be methodical and create a spreadsheet to document your findings. Share the workload. If you have an artist friend whose artwork is dissimilar, you can split the tasks and share the raw results leaving each other to refine the search as they need.
Galleries aren’t hiding under rocks. If you can’t find them on the internet or figure out what you need to know about them, they aren’t worth your time. By keeping track of your findings, you will save time and effort to redo work later.
You’ll find local, regional, and national gallery directory publications available in galleries in every art district. You can also buy lists of art galleries broken down by location from direct mail list brokers. You can easily hire an assistant, or virtual assistant, to do this type of work for you. Don’t waste your valuable time on menial tasks that anyone can do.
Use Referrals to Get Art Galleries to Show Your Work.
Word-of-mouth recommendations are the best. When someone refers you and your art to a gallery, you have an edge. A personal endorsement gives you immediate credibility, which is what makes referrals golden. You start with trust built-in; it’s up to you to make it over the know and like hurdles that stand between you and getting into an art gallery.
If you know an artist in a gallery, getting their recommendation will carry weight. Any introduction or referral is a significant help. Gallery patrons, acquaintances of the gallery owner, and any other connections are potential door openers for you.
Keep your eyes open for opportunity and your creative mind sharp to think of unique possibilities in making connections. For instance, it might be someone who knows someone who can help you. Two degrees of separation is always better than cold calling with no introduction. Be brave and confident and specific about what you want. Look for ways to reciprocate or do a favor in advance of asking for help from your connections.
Start Local Whenever Possible.
Know the art scene in your location. Don’t assume because you live there; you know everything. Where is art sold in retail locations within fifty miles of your home? You hear that in some resort towns that are also art destinations, such as Sedona, Arizona, many galleries avoid collaborating with local artists because they have the misguided opinion doing so lowers the gallery’s prestige.
Use your research to avoid letting let opinions cloud the facts. There are a ton of galleries in Sedona, and some represent local artists. When you take unsubstantiated opinions as advice, you will miss viable chances of getting into galleries. If you are lucky, some of your nearby galleries may buy into the support local businesses movement.
Lead the Charge. Take the Publicity and Burnish Your Brand.
You can start a campaign in your area to support local businesses and indie artists. Make signs and stickers, create a website, promote local business events. You don’t need to wait for approval from others. Just do it! People seeing someone taking charge for the greater good are going to take notice, including gallery owners. Make it part of your brand. A brand is what people say about you when they don’t remember your name. Your actions control their opinions.
By spearheading such a movement, you embrace your local business community, including all retail art locations in the area. You’ll do good for their businesses that most will recognize and value. When you push your message out to all local media, you gain the valuable byproduct of raising their awareness of you and your art.
To Cold Call or Not Cold Call.
It depends on who you ask if cold-calling galleries is effective. There are always some gallery owners who advise artists to never cold-call them. But others, such as my good friend, and well-known gallery owner Jason Horejs, who teaches artists through his Art Business Academy how to get into galleries, will tell you it is the best method.
Jason encourages artists to darken his doorstep. With a lifetime in the gallery business and decades as a gallery owner, he speaks from experience. His father supported a family of nine children by finding galleries to sell his art by researching them first, then cold calling on them for representation.
I believe if your research shows a good fit, and you choose a slow time to approach and give a concise, confident presentation, you will have success despite what others advise. Carry in a tablet with your portfolio or a small original in your bag. Keep larger originals in your vehicle ready to bring in on invitation.
Pay Attention to Published Submission Policies.
If you find galleries that post submission guidelines, you must read them. Follow the rules as best you can while keeping the option to cold call them open. If they don’t accept submissions, it is bold to proceed, but in such circumstances, you have nothing to lose pitching them if you are confident you are a fit for the gallery.
Intelligent gallerists rarely refuse uncomplicated ways to check out new artists because they know you never know. Snobs who react negatively are a poor fit for your intentions anyway.
If you’ve driven a distance to get near galleries that are good candidates, don’t let opportunities go without exploring them. A savvy gallerist who likes your artwork, confident approach, and admires your initiative will give you a pass on cold calling they might otherwise find objectionable.
Galleries with Established Submission Procedures.
The second gallery I worked for in Scottsdale had open submission hours weekly. They encouraged artists to show up between 2 PM to 4 PM on any Wednesday. The owner blocked the time for him or the gallery director to be there to meet with artists.
The policy made it easy for everyone. Artists would know in advance when to appear for presentations. It gave employees a simple, non-confrontational way to guide artists wishing to get into the gallery. I thought it encouraged more artists to show because they knew they were welcome.
I saw artists unaware of the policy, which wasn’t published on the gallery’s website, drop in to present their work more than once. When the owner was there and had time, he would usually review the artwork on the spot to get it over with for everyone. If busy or pressed for time, he’d invite them back next Wednesday. Besides an offer to represent, that’s the best outcome possible for an artist cold calling a gallery.
Practice to Be Confident When Presenting Your Work.
Your art is a visual medium but appreciating your art is a sensory experience. Be ready to give your brief personal story and explain your intentions for making your art. To hear how you feel about your art as you describe it is a potentially powerful motivation.
Few artists are glib enough to riff on their work in a fluid style without rehearsal. Presenting to a vital gallery is not time for an ad-lib discussion of your work. Build up what you want to say like you build an artwork. Take a systematic, practiced approach until you can repeat your best words fluently without hesitation.
Write your presentation down and keep polishing your copy. Practice your presentation in the mirror or to friends and family until you can speak it with ease. Stay brief, on point, and smile. Use eye contact and gestures to keep your listener’s attention. If this all sounds scary or foreign, you’re not alone. Remember learning to present your art is key to achieving your goal and that it is a doable task that improves with each recitation.
Review How to Get into Art Galleries, Part One and Part Two.
This third installment in this series provides more insights, tips, and techniques for you to use in getting your work into galleries of your choice. If you missed Part One, click this link to read How to Get into Art Galleries. Part One, and this one, How to Get into Galleries, Part Two. Both offer unique, insider knowledge and perspective not available for artists anywhere else.
More Tips on How to Get into Art Galleries Coming in Part Four.
There is much to learn and consider for artists to enjoy success in finding gallery representation. That’s why this series addressing how to get into galleries continues. You’ll find more insider insights and helpful tips in the next How to Get into Galleries, Part Four installment in next week’s post. Be sure to read Parts One and Two to get the whole story. Links to those posts are above.
Market Your Art Your Way. Live Your Best Artist’s Life.
I believe you can and should decide what living your best artist’s life means to you. In the Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP), members get encouragement, ideas, and insights to work on what they want from their life as artists. And we work on how to make believable, achievable plans and turn them into action with happy results.
Although members indeed have access to a world-class library of art marketing information in the AMTP archives, the more significant benefit is the guidance and encouragement to live one’s best artist’s life. It’s through that prism that learning the best ways how to use art marketing effectively makes sense.
Do You Need Help Marketing Your Art?
Your decisions and self-awareness will guide how you market your work, including whether to include galleries in your plans. Your art marketing success begins by knowing what you want to happen through making your art. Your clarity avoids wasting money and squandering time on strategies that don’t support your vision for your best artist’s life. Knowledge is power and is what we strive to provide AMTP members.
Do you like the concept of gaining knowledge, insights, and inspiration from working with me and within a worldwide community of artists? It’s an offer to start selling your art your way while living your best artist’s life. Please accept my invitation to become an Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP) member. It would be great to enjoy the pleasure of your company in the group.