With our gallery closed for ten days of renovations (and some of us champing at the bit to get back in there), we thought it would be a good time to revisit a subject we’ve tackled before: Helping artists find the right gallery representation. Being a full-time artist is a tough field to break into and sustain, and we have the utmost respect for the artists who embrace it.
Are you one of them? Have you been painting off and on for years, and have found your life’s passion but haven’t gotten serious yet about selling? Before you pitch yourself to a gallery, you need to have a body of work to sell, a history of sales … and probably a thick skin. Where do you start? Here are some tips that we have gathered from our years of following the sometimes circuitous route that artists take before landing in a gallery.
Get out there! Climb on to the art circuit and submit your work to school fundraisers, local art shows and charity events, art fairs and art auctions and national organizations. (Our little secret: We are always monitoring local and national shows, and always looking for the next great artist.) Not only will you get your name out there, but you’ll do some good for great organizations.
Widen your scope: Hang your work in highly trafficked tourist destinations. There are often art fairs in beach towns, mountain areas and many touristy communities. This will broaden your reach and exposure, and you may find that your work is more popular in one area than another. (We’ve found lots of great artists on our travels.)
Talk to your clients! Find out what they like about your art, ask them what their favorite galleries are, and explore their possible connections. We often listen to client recommendations and have signed up several artists who were referred by trusted clients.
Take classes! Even if you’re an accomplished artist who has nothing to learn, you’ll always benefit from being around other artists and learning what they’re doing to get promoted. (We’ve gotten referrals from teachers as well as other students in a class.) Look at Allison Chambers: Once a “student” at our “Painting in Provence” workshop, and now a teacher at the same workshop and a successful gallery artist!
Get Framed! You will be amazed when we tell you of one great artist whom we met through our framer! That’s right, Nancy Franke many many years ago … packing up a painting in the trunk of her car. We grabbed it from her, sold it a week later, and shook hands for life! What a fortuitous trip to the framer that was, for both of us! We laugh about it to this day.
Make friends! Think about sharing studio space or joining art organizations where your work will be seen. Learn from others and ask them for advice. (Some of our favorite artists have come from other artist referrals.)
Get Social! Use the web and all social media outlets to both post your work and to offer support to fellow artists. It’ll widen your exposure and help your potential gallery when they’re surfing your name. Every gallery we know starts their due diligence by surfing the web. Hint: If you do get gallery representation, make sure you feed the gallery before you feed the social media … and always keep your prices consistent.
Paint in series: A gallery wants to know that you’ve got depth and with a series, you’ll show them that you believe in what you do and that your one great painting isn’t just a fluke. (We hate to fall in love with one painting by a potential artist only to find out the well is dry.)
Do your homework: Visit as many galleries as you can and gauge the kind of work they have. Can you see your art fitting in? Are you in the right price point? Is your art distinctive from what they already carry? Galleries all have a distinctive imprimatur but they look for a variety of work within that scope.
Be a social butterfly (but don’t eat all the food!): Go to gallery openings around town and see what kind of work they present and what kind of crowd they attract. How do you like the vibe? Is the event well attended? Are clients buying or just looking? Hint: This is a time to observe and enjoy, and not appropriate to tell the gallery managers you’re an artist. (They know you are!)
Read up on design trends: I know, you don’t want to hear this because of course your work is original and you don’t want it to match the sofa! But this is a business, and if you want to sell, you’re going to need to know at least the palettes that are trending. Keep your work distinctive, original and honest. But know the market. You’ll be way ahead of the game if you do.
Get the skinny: When you’ve got a broad range of work, and you’re ready to present it to a gallery, know everything you can about them so that you can tailor your ask. And then, follow these little suggestions from our website: For Artists:
We hope this has been helpful. Because even though being an artist can be tough going at first, there’s always room out there for fresh, new talent. And we, for one, don’t want to miss it! Good luck.
P.S. Oh, and by the way, we’re counting the days …