As a Gallerina the one question I am asked most often by young or emerging artists is “How do I get noticed by a gallery”?
Artworld Fine Art receives quite a number of portfolio submissions, as do most established galleries with a good reputation for treating artists fairly. Running a gallery is a huge amount of work – so portfolios can pile up quickly – in a month we can receive 50 or more.
I do my best to look at all the portfolio’s that are submitted, but I do admit quite often they sit in that folder for weeks as more urgent matters take priority like hanging exhibits, doing paperwork, making phone calls, planning advertisements, dealing with clients, taking phone calls etc.
Quite often you will hear that the answer to getting noticed by a gallery is to:
1. Send in a very professionally prepared portfolio.
Comment: Chances are it will get ignored for a very long time. The professionally prepared portfolios get put into the same file folder as the one’s that contain a single page bio and a few images or a USB. Some artists are discovered this way – but it is not the only way to be discovered.
2. Call ahead and make an appointment.
Comment: Chances are you will be seen as a time waster since you are not buying art and the gallery has not seen your work.
3. Just walk in.
Comment: You will risk interrupting and chances are the person you will need to speak with will not have time at the moment to see you.
4. Email your portfolio.
Comment: Goes into the file with all the other portfolio’s.
This is reality. So what are the options:
1. Target the Galleries that are right for your work. They should sell the medium you work in and represent artwork styles that will draw buyers that would be interested in your work. The Gallery should be reputable and should promote themselves well.
2. Be honest with yourself – is your work the level and quality of the the artwork carried by your target galleries?
3. Go through the galleries list of artists and see who you know. If you are at the same level chances are you will know or have met some of them.
4. If you don’t know anyone, start doing some networking. Get artists you respect to critique your portfolio (offer to pay for this). Start to connect with artists that are masters, by taking a class they are holding – its a great way to get noticed.
5. If you know an artist friend exhibiting at your target gallery – ask about the gallery – are you suited to the gallery – is the gallery suited to you?
6. Ask your friend if they think the gallery would like your work. Better to get the truth from your artist friend, than a rejection letter from the gallery. You can still submit to the gallery if you want but you’ll be better prepared.
7. As your friend if they would be willing to make a referral on your behalf.
8. Check the galleries exhibition schedule. Make sure the introduction is not happening a few days before a major gallery exhibit.
9. Have your friend call the gallery for you. That will peak the galleries interest and let the gallery know you will be submitting a portfolio or following up with a phone call.
10. If possible have your friend send the portfolio or put it in the hands of the gallery
11. After the portfolio arrives the gallery you will probably get a phone call.
12. The dialogue should now be open. The gallery may still turn down your work but your discussions will be relaxed, casual and friendly. If they do reject your submission – ask if they know of any other galleries where your work might be a better fit.
Yes it sounds like a lot of work, but every career is a lot of work and being an artist is no different. If your career is worth it, then so is the effort.