He who is not every day conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Welcome to the fourth and final post in the How to Get into Art Galleries series (Find links to the previous posts at the bottom). One of the best things you can do to prepare for getting into galleries is to feel confident you and your work are ready for the experience. I presented the Fine Art Print Publisher’s Wish List in my first book, How to Profit from the Art Print Market. It applies as much to get into art galleries as it does in contracting with an art print publisher.
Fine Art Print Publisher’s Wish List.
- Work has substantial commercial appeal.
- Work is consistent.
- Artist is easy to work with.
- Works on deadlines.
- Artist is coachable on specific design requests.
- Artist is trustworthy and reliable.
- Artist Is available and easy to contact.
- Artist is flexible and versatile.
Tip for Self-Representing Artists.
As a self-representing artist, you are the boss of yourself. That means you can use the list to check yourself. Ask yourself how your art business activities align with the list’s traits? It’s personal, so you don’t have to share your answers. But I bet you find your answers enlightening.
The more these characteristics apply to you, the more you work in the best version of yourself. No matter how you distribute your art, you can see your actions have consequences and potential significant influence on your art business and how you live your artist’s life.
Art Galleries Are Luxury Retail Stores.
Operating an art gallery is equivalent to running a high-end, luxury market retail store. The product line and how it is marketed drive success or lack thereof. The first item on my publisher’s list is the most important to publishers and gallerists. They must have conviction the work of the artists they represent have commercial value, or they don’t act.
Item #2 on the list is also a top determining factor in selecting artists to represent. Besides having work that appears to have commercial appeal, the gallerist needs to know the artist has a body of similar artworks and can produce more similar paintings to meet the demand they envision for marketing the artist’s work.
Art Gallery Inclusion Is Selective and Unique.
While it’s only implied in the list, gallerists need assurance their artists are productive and capable of continuing a steady and reliable output of new works to keep them supplied. In addition, some gallery owners will only work with artists who are full-time in the business of art. The less you need them, the more likely they are to want you.
Fortunately, full-time work as an artist is not a universal requirement. You can find galleries that are happy to work with artists who don’t make a full-time living from their art business. It’s one of the things your research will uncover for you. And remember, you could be the one who changes the policy. I guarantee that if a gallerist loves your artwork and it punches all the other items on their list, they will make exceptions. But, of course, it’s always free, and it never hurts to ask.
How You Prepare Yourself to Pitch Galleries Is Important.
- You have a body of work with reliable value and potential sales charm.
- You’ve written your lines and practiced and polished them, so you communicate fluently and naturally.
- You’ve put yourself together to look your best. Not necessarily Sunday finest, but not socks and Birkenstocks either.
- You’ve polished your bio and artist’s statement to make them informative and appealing.
- Your portfolio and other materials for your presentation are organized and set up for you to show your work professionally and confidently.
Advice for Improving Your Odds of Gaining Gallery Representation
Come in with a following. When you bring a following to a gallery, you become a marketing partner and a vendor supplying products to the business. Any or all the following are helpful to a gallerist considering choosing to rep your work.
- An email list of engaged subscribers.
- A following on one or more social media channels.
- A direct mail list of potential buyers.
- A reputation among influencers and prospective patrons.
A gallery owner who can see you have a loyal following is relieved to know you understand the importance of relationships and marketing. It gives them an extra reason to work with you.
It’s not a deal-breaker if you don’t have lists of possible buyers, but there is no denying it helps. If anything, it might be the difference between a successful encounter with a gallery. The gallery business is challenging and competitive. The marketing power you bring is beneficial all around.
A side note is even if you start selling primarily through galleries against my previous advice, it’s wise to keep your lists and social media active and engaged because you never know. Things can and do change. If you are back to self-representation, you’ll appreciate taking my recommendation to keep your lists alive.
Take the Publisher’s Wish List Seriously.
You want to give yourself every advantage possible when approaching galleries. Don’t toss off the eight items on the list as inconsequential because it’s quite the opposite. What you think is minor or not worth doing or knowing may be a big deal to the next gallery owner you pitch. The items are about integrity, personality, and eagerness to succeed. A publisher will overlook some traits but not all. If you are compelling otherwise, they will skip some poor characteristics to some extent. But being fussy is never in your favor.
Difficult artists make good book and movie scripts, but they make lousy business partners.― Barney Davey
You should know I am a strong proponent of artists working to develop direct patronage as their primary means of distributing their work. At the same time, I am a realist and know it will take time to build a following and fill a pipeline with potential sales. That is where working with galleries, publishers, licensors, and other third parties is valuable.
Third-Party Distribution Is a Good Thing As a Secondary Channel.
No matter what percentage of your sales derives from direct patronage, there are many reasons to foster relationships with third parties. To start, it’s another revenue stream. As an artist, you want as many of those as possible that you can handle. Gallery representation can burnish your reputation besides bringing in revenue.
When you consider the options presented here, you want to think about if this is the right choice for you at this time. Anything you do will require a commitment of time and money. As such, you want to be as sure your efforts will pay a decent return.
Have Patience and Get Help As You Can.
Learn about these options, then use your best judgment on what to do next. Don’t try to do it all at once. It’s probably best if you don’t try to do it all unless you have reliable help.
When asked for their thoughts on the action in a game and their performance, you will often hear ballplayers in interviews. “I do my best to stay within myself. I don’t try to make plays beyond my abilities.” Or words to that effect. The same is true for you. Stay within what is possible and doable. It will cut down on the stress and keep you focused on getting important things done.
The Gallery Owner’s Goal When Working with Artists
Keep in mind that a gallery is not a museum. Instead, it is a business with the mission of introducing and selling art to potential buyers. While some gallery owners may have high-minded reasons for being in the industry, the only ones who stay in business are those who put a premium on selling work steadily.
The gallery owner’s goal is to romance the work of the artists they represent to enhance their ability to sell more art. It is infinitely easier to sell multiple pieces or find the right one when an artist’s work is recognizable as being created by the same hand.
Make It All About the Gallery Owner’s Viewpoint
Suppose a potential buyer shows interest in a particular piece but hesitates because of the subject, orientation, or whatever. In that case, it’s a perfect segue for the salesperson to direct another work by the same artist that is more appropriate for the buyer’s needs. Or to lead a buyer to a second work once an initial sale is made. “Since you like this artwork so much, I have to show you another. They are ideal companion pieces.”
That’s how gallery owners think. They want art they can work with when they get to the selling stage. The more your work and attitude help them make sales, the more inclined they are to add you to their roster. So, think about everything from the gallery owner’s perspective. The closer you get to walking in their shoes and thinking like them, the better your reception and success in dealing with galleries.
How to Introduce Yourself
Ultimately, you will use your words, and feel free to use this suggested opening.
Hi, I’m Barney Davey, I’m an [accomplished | successful ] abstract artist. I believe my art would sell well in your gallery. Can I show it to you on my tablet?
How to Get into Art Galleries Four Part Series.
- How to Get into Art Galleries. Part One.
- How to Get into Art Galleries. Part Two.
- How to Get into Art Galleries. Part Three.
- How to Get into Art Galleries. Part Four.
Market Your Art Your Way. Live Your Best Artist’s Life.
You must buy into marketing your art. It never works when you don’t. If you don’t like it and don’t want to do it, that’s what happens. It’s a bust. Here’s some potentially welcome news. That may be exactly what you want, and it’s okay to make that decision and live your best artist’s life anyway. It’s your life and your choices.
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. Through that prism, learning the best ways 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.
If you want to work with a worldwide community of artists and me to start selling your art and 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.
One Lifetime Skill Learned and Applied Pays Back Big Time.
Besides getting much more detail and 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 a stress-free, easy way to ask for and get referrals. That’s a lifetime skill. A 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.