In the beginning, I advise that you start with galleries that are located in a major city or resort near you. Visit them and browse. Dont mention you’re an artist, don’t mention anything. Just walk around and get a feel for the place. Will your work fit in with the collection? Is the gallery well laid out and well lighted, or is it dim, dusty and reeking of disorganization? Does the place exude contentment and confidence, or despair and ineptitude? Most importantly, are the director and staff snobs, or are they considerate and helpful? If the former, I advise you stay away.
Snobbishness, like so many negative traits, is rooted in insecurity. If the director is this way with you, chances are he’s this way with clients, which will only lead to lost sales and commissionsÂ I have to admit though, some snobs do make excellent art dealers, theyï¿½re just a pain-in-the-ass to work with. In the end it s a personal call.’ If you feel you can work well with one of these folks, go aheadjust watch your step as you proceed: snobbishness, by my experience, is often an indicator of a lack of integrity, not to mention a lack of enlightenment.
After you’ve sampled enough galleries to know which you want to approach, drop by and make an appointment to see the director portfolio in hand. Why do you do this in person? Because requesting an appointment in person normally works better than making a call, since it’s harder for someone to refuse you if youï¿½re standing in front of them.
If the staff member tells you the director is not looking for new artists, talk the staff member into looking at your work anyway. No, donï¿½t hand him a satchel of paintings, hand him the portfolio with one of your originals nearby in case it’s needed. If you’re already talking to the director, so much the better. If not, and if the staff member is impressed, try to make the appointment. If one canï¿½t be made at that moment, take a business card and call later, persisting until the director either agrees to see you, or gives you an unequivocal no.
If the only way the gallery will view your work is by your mailing them visuals, fine.ï¿½ Type a brief cover letter on quality stationery, enclose the slides and prints, your resume, at least one postcard (remember those?), and a self-addressed, stamped envelope.ï¿½ Also include any press clippings that you may have managed to garner.ï¿½ Give the recipient seven days, then call and ask if theyï¿½ve had time to look everything over.ï¿½ If they have, try to get an appointment to go in and show your work.ï¿½ï¿½
The first gallery wonï¿½t see you?ï¿½ Try a second, then a third and fourth if necessary.ï¿½ No matter how many rejections you get, you must persist.ï¿½ As Iï¿½ve already pointed out,ï¿½ if youï¿½ve got the talent, and have paid the dues, you will find the right galleryï¿½but only if youï¿½re persistent enough; if youï¿½re not, you wonï¿½t.
When you do get your appointment, arrive on time, be brief, be confident, and reflect certainty in your work.ï¿½ Take at least three of your best originals with you.ï¿½ Dress any way you want, just donï¿½t go in looking like youï¿½re desperate and starving.ï¿½ You want to go in looking like a success, even if that success is only expressed in the mastery of your medium.ï¿½ Make sure your presentation is neat, organized and professionalï¿½with quality frames on your paintings if frames are needed, or refined bases (marble, granite, finished wood) on your sculpture if bases are needed.ï¿½
In my gallery, when an artist walks in the door for an appointment, heï¿½d better be prepared or Iï¿½ll lose interest fast.ï¿½ Sure Iï¿½m primarily looking at the work, but Iï¿½m also looking at the artist, and gauging whether heï¿½ll be responsible in his obligations.ï¿½ If I see real possibility in the work, Iï¿½ll help him organize his career, but only if I sense that heï¿½ll carry his weight.ï¿½ If he strikes me as being unreliable and undisciplined, Iï¿½ll politely show him the doorï¿½no matter how brilliant the work might be.ï¿½ Headaches like that I just donï¿½t need.
Equally important is the manner in which the dealer treats you.ï¿½ Does he treat you with respect?ï¿½ Is he considerate?ï¿½ He may be busy.ï¿½ He may be in debt up to his hindquarters.ï¿½ He may be having one awful day.ï¿½ Even so, you deserve respect for the years of sacrifice youï¿½ve paid out in mastering whatever it is you do.ï¿½ Bear that sacrifice in mind, and be proud of the accomplishment it reflects.ï¿½ Pride, when wielded wisely, will carry you a long way.
You must also be the same way with the directorï¿½starting by making the appointment first, and not by just showing up and expecting him to drop everything for you.ï¿½ Most directors are very busy, operating their gallery on a thin profit margin, assuming theyï¿½re making a profit at all.ï¿½ Itï¿½s difficult, vexing work to run a gallery.ï¿½ Just be glad you donï¿½t have to do it.ï¿½ All you have to do is paint, or sculpt, or whatever.ï¿½ But the gallery, if they take you on, has to convince the public that youï¿½re worth investing inï¿½no mean feat.ï¿½ Thatï¿½s why when you meet the director, itï¿½s important that youï¿½re aware of the reality he grapples with every day.
What I mean is, when that first meeting occurs, it is critical that you show some form of respect, and that it be returned.ï¿½ Later a deeper sort of respect will have to be earned, and it will have to be mutual.ï¿½ You both will need to achieve this if youï¿½re to have a good working relationship; if you donï¿½t, you wonï¿½t.ï¿½ As youï¿½re talking with the director, keep this in mind.ï¿½ This two-way street will be one of the most important youï¿½ll travel in your career.ï¿½ It involves all the give-and-take of any successful relationship.