Learning how to get into galleries is a skill artists can improve. As with everything I teach, connections seal deals.
— Barney Davey
How Do You Find Art Galleries That Are Willing to Give You a Chance to Showcase Your Work?
The above was a question posed to me on Quora.com, where I answered it. Because the answer is helpful in general, and is a frequent question I also answer in the Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP) private Facebook group, I am posting it here as well.
Look before You Leap.
The one-word answer to the question, “How Do You Find Art Galleries That Are Willing to Give You a Chance to Showcase Your Work?” is RESEARCH. Start by learning about the gallery before you attempt to contact them. If you are an abstract artist, don’t waste time pitching to a gallery that does Western art. The same is true, with price points. Seek galleries that represent work in your price range. You are looking for a good fit.
Most galleries have a full complement of artists already, but they still look because you never know. It’s up to you to stay persistent and create the luck to engage galleries when they are open to representing new artists.
Gallery owners look for consistent quality in an artist’s work. They will want to know about your productivity. It’s important to them that their artists can continue to supply new works in the same genre or style on a steady basis.
The Defining Ultimate Question Regarding How to Get into Galleries?
The most important factor is, “Will the work sell in the gallery?” It helps if you have other experiences of successful sales with a third party to share, although it’s not an absolute necessity. Otherwise, the gallery owner or decision-maker is going on gut instinct.
If you fit the bill in terms of quality of work, as in what the gallery represents, and can demonstrate you can supply new artwork on demand, then there are the nearly intangible aspects. One of the most important is confidence and attitude. This distinction is subtle but can be the deal-making difference when all else is equal.
Reading the “Tell” Inside the Question.
Poker players are amateur psychologists. They study their opponents’ every move and gesture to glean useful insights. For instance, when a player has a good hand, he might reach for chips to raise the pot more quickly than on hands where he is more unsure of where he stands. That’s a tell. Tells can be so subtle the player giving it has no clue he only shuffles his chips when he is bluffing and so on. How you ask questions throws off tells as well. Especially in situations where it matters.
Reading into the wording of the Quora question, the unnecessary phrase “willing to give you a chance” indicates a lack of confidence. The implication is slight and nearly imperceptible but goes into the subconsciousness of the reader, just as it would a gallery owner. It’s foreshadowing the asker of the question feels beat down and unsure. See and feel the difference when put this way, “How do I find fitting galleries to showcase my work?” It removes the negative connotation and expresses optimism, confidence, and knowledge of the process.
Never Show Weakness or Surrender Your Power.
I go on to provide more insight to the question. “Never give away your power in your communications or presentation. Your question here is the equivalent of saying, “I hope I’m not bothering you.” Or “I’m sorry. Is this a good time to talk to you?”
Practice what you will say or write to a gallery. Work on getting rid of any diminishing or slightly negative connotations. Confidence is sexier and more appealing than just about any other qualities. Do everything you can to portray your work and yourself in the most positive and confident light as possible. Be aware that taking this too far strays into arrogance, which is something that will work against you.
Be humble and brave. Be yourself and you’ll do fine and get better every time.
Selling Anything Is a Numbers Game.
Selling art is a numbers game. If you want to sell your artwork, you must show it to lots of people frequently. Getting into galleries is also a numbers game. Keep knocking on doors, and don’t let being turned down get you down. Ask for feedback when you get a no. You have nothing to lose and potentially valuable insights to gain.
Don’t Push All-in On Galleries.
Lastly, don’t bet the ranch on gallery representation as your primary means of distribution. I advise making it secondary to direct patronage where you sell to your patrons directly. That’s how you stay in control and earn the highest profits from the sale of your art. You will get more practical advice on how to get into galleries in the Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP). It’s jam-packed with nuggets of useful information on vital marketing topics for artists.
One Lifetime Skill Learned and Applied Pays Back Big Time.
Besides getting insider info on how to get into galleries, you get loads of other valuable lessons designed to help you improve your art business. For example, you learn an stress-free, easy way how to ask for and get referrals. That’s a lifetime skill. Successful application will make you tens of thousands of dollars in sales you would miss without it.
There are dozens of skills in the AMTP art marketing library archives, mastering a few will make your art business more pleasant and profitable.