Friday Tips: So Now You’re in a Gallery

Dear Friday Tipsters:

Good to be back. What did I accomplish during my absence?

–Drank fine bourbons, worked on the new book (done in spring), dealt with agents in Hollywood on script, landed some new art projects, advanced TV concept maybe a little, spoiled family, mentored teenage artists, sold a buttload of art in Nov/Dec, took on some new artists, slept.

Today’s tip below.  For future tips, please feel free to email questions to  I like making a direct response.  This is similar to what I do for the magazines.

Trust everyone is well.  Fire away.




The Dutchman and His Dealers, Posthumous 

You’re In a Gallery:  Now What?
            Firstly, I don’t feel you should expect miracles.  Give the dealer time to work the market, and find out which of your styles sells best.  If she makes suggestions about how to make your work more salable, listen to her—assuming that she knows her business, and you respect her.  If she’s urging a subtle change, play with it, see if it inspires you.  When you work with your dealer in a spirit of cooperation, and when that dealer has talents similar to those of a skilled book editor, the results are almost always good. 
            This does not mean, however, that the more shallow aspects of the art market should dictate how you work.  If you allow that to happen, you’ll wind up creating work that lacks soul, integrity and passion.  Always stay true to your vision, and always work within the guiding parameters of your intuition.  If you let other people sway you too far with well intentioned suggestions, you’ll get off the track of your own instincts, which will lead down a very dissatisfying road.  In the end, only you can know what it is you want, or need, to create.  No one else can fulfill this role for you, and no one else should.

            By this I don’t mean yours, but the gallery’s for your work.  Maybe they’ll call it enthusiasm, appreciation, or sheer love.  However it’s termed, the gallery staff should feel a genuine fascination for what you do.  Why?  Because collectors will sense their passion, and in turn become infected with it.  This will lead to sales, and a broadening reputation.
            Adversely, if the staff are indifferent to your work or, worse, blasé, this too will be sensed by potential collectors.  The next thing you know, you’ll become one of those non-selling artists whose pieces are ignored, then begin collecting dust, then are relegated to a back corner or shelved in the storage racks. 
            There is also the possibility that, no matter how impassioned the staff are, and no matter how hard they work, your stuff simply won’t sell.  It could be you’re in the wrong gallery, the wrong region, or it could be that no one has an answer for this unfortunate, but all too common, failing.  Nobody can really predict the art market, just as no one can really predict that other market based at the corner of Broad and Wall Streets.  Even so, the combination of a gallery’s energy, and your mastery, will normally bring good results.  Try to ensure that each gallery you work with functions on this basis.  If, after all good efforts, the work still isn’t selling, always be willing to try another gallery.  Each of my more successful artists has had to do this.

4 thoughts on “Friday Tips: So Now You’re in a Gallery

  1. Hi Paul. You mention that we “should give the dealer time to work the market, and find out which of your styles sells best”. What would you say is the best way to present more than one style or body of work to a gallery – before you have become associated with that galley? I’ve been advised to only present one body of work, but it seems to make better business sense to give the gallery options to chose from.

    Glad to see the Friday tips back. Thanks for all the good information and encouragement you give artists.



  2. Kathryn: Now that you mention it, I always advise artists to present the style that they’re most passionate about. Few have radically different approaches to a given medium. Those who do run the risk of dilluting their focus–unless they’re damn gifted. So if a dealer advises that you consider slight modifications in an approach, as long as it fits within your area of fire and inspiration, it may be worth considering. But as you first approach galleries, stick with what you’re confident about.

  3. Paul,
    Great article and perfect timing as I have just picked up two new galleries by the same owner. She looked through my portfolio and picked her favorite ones and we began to formulate ideas from thare in what direction or subject we could most effectively focus on for her galleries.

    In regards to the galleries I show at currently:
    I have found that when I tell a background story about a painting to the sales staff or get to know the staff when possible on a personal level. They then gladly pass on that feeling to the viewers, people like to feel like they can get an idea of the artist behind the work. I give them a Bio with a few odd or funny things about my up bringing as well as an artist statement that explains my art theory and what I striving towards.

    I have had the same problem as Katheryn,of representing two styles because of my background in illustration and a large body of more whimsical images. I have two galleries that show a bit of both but we keep it separate as to not confuse anyone, but for the most part we have learned what sells what I can produce best most consistently and what I enjoy…Landscapes with an illustrative quality or sort of a highbred of my work.

    All the best,
    Michael Orwick
    Orwick Arts

  4. Michael: Good point about background. My staff is informed of same, because clients–or potential clients–value that. Doesn’t matter what part of the country you live in, this holds true for all collectors. And there are few things more gratifying in this biz than taking a beginning collector, and helping them become an passionate about your artists. Where before they may have assigned that passion to BMWs, they now assign it to artists of their region. This is a great thing, whether you live in San Diego or Birmingham.

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