Friday Tips for Artists: Getting Accepted by A Gallery


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 commissions I have to admit though, some snobs do make excellent art dealers, they�re 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 you�re 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, don�t 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 can�t 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.� 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.� Also include any press clippings that you may have managed to garner.� Give the recipient seven days, then call and ask if they�ve had time to look everything over.� If they have, try to get an appointment to go in and show your work.��

The first gallery won�t see you?� Try a second, then a third and fourth if necessary.� No matter how many rejections you get, you must persist.� As I�ve already pointed out,� if you�ve got the talent, and have paid the dues, you will find the right gallery�but only if you�re persistent enough; if you�re not, you won�t.

When you do get your appointment, arrive on time, be brief, be confident, and reflect certainty in your work.� Take at least three of your best originals with you.� Dress any way you want, just don�t go in looking like you�re desperate and starving.� You want to go in looking like a success, even if that success is only expressed in the mastery of your medium.� Make sure your presentation is neat, organized and professional�with quality frames on your paintings if frames are needed, or refined bases (marble, granite, finished wood) on your sculpture if bases are needed.�

In my gallery, when an artist walks in the door for an appointment, he�d better be prepared or I�ll lose interest fast.� Sure I�m primarily looking at the work, but I�m also looking at the artist, and gauging whether he�ll be responsible in his obligations.� If I see real possibility in the work, I�ll help him organize his career, but only if I sense that he�ll carry his weight.� If he strikes me as being unreliable and undisciplined, I�ll politely show him the door�no matter how brilliant the work might be.� Headaches like that I just don�t need.

Equally important is the manner in which the dealer treats you.� Does he treat you with respect?� Is he considerate?� He may be busy.� He may be in debt up to his hindquarters.� He may be having one awful day.� Even so, you deserve respect for the years of sacrifice you�ve paid out in mastering whatever it is you do.� Bear that sacrifice in mind, and be proud of the accomplishment it reflects.� Pride, when wielded wisely, will carry you a long way.

You must also be the same way with the director�starting by making the appointment first, and not by just showing up and expecting him to drop everything for you.� Most directors are very busy, operating their gallery on a thin profit margin, assuming they�re making a profit at all.� It�s difficult, vexing work to run a gallery.� Just be glad you don�t have to do it.� All you have to do is paint, or sculpt, or whatever.� But the gallery, if they take you on, has to convince the public that you�re worth investing in�no mean feat.� That�s why when you meet the director, it�s important that you�re 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.� Later a deeper sort of respect will have to be earned, and it will have to be mutual.� You both will need to achieve this if you�re to have a good working relationship; if you don�t, you won�t.� As you�re talking with the director, keep this in mind.� This two-way street will be one of the most important you�ll travel in your career.� It involves all the give-and-take of any successful relationship.

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