(The following is a guest post from Karen Shidlo of Jester Jacques Gallery.)
Having been on both sides of this fence myself as both the artist looking for a gallery to show my work and now, a gallery director who is inundated with artist portfolios on a weekly basis, I feel quite confident in sharing these tips with you.
I realize that some of what I say may seem trite or obvious, but trust me; if you want to use your time efficiently, do not neglect the simple measures which can ensure your success.
First of all, ensure that your website or blog is neat, easy to use and gets right to the point. We do not want to see anything extraneous, nor do we want to waste time trying to find where your latest artwork is.
Have a look at other people’s designs if you need some inspiration. When I visit an artist’s website, I immediately want to see their work; after all, that is what you are selling.
Next, take your time to do research. Do not feel any rush in this endeavour. Gallery owners look for artists who have the potential for longevity and growth, so approaching this goal in a timely manner is best. You will appear well read, intelligent and knowledgeable, not only about the people you are emailing and reaching out to, but your understanding of yourself as an artist will really come across.
Know who you are. I always hated the question ‘so what kind of painter are you?’ as I do not want to pigeon hole myself as an artist. However, you have to present yourself and your art in a concise manner, which kind of means you are going to have to associate yourself with a specific niche or genre of visual art.
The next step is to come up with a carefully chosen list of galleries you wish to contact. You should include some more established galleries, but do not be afraid to take a risk on newer ones as well. All of them should be ones that exhibit and sell your style of work. You would not believe the amount of people who email me portfolios that do not fit into our mission statement, goal or any of the work we currently show and sell. It is a shame that the artists do not take just a little bit more time to consider how they would fit; doing an extra few minutes reading about the gallery’s intentions and looking at their past exhibitions etc. will save you time in the long run.
With your website just as you want it, having done research and built up your list of contacts, you are now ready to make contact with the art galleries! Writing an email which will actually be opened and then given attention can be tricky.
So here are my quick tips on how to compose a successful email:
- Write something in the subject line, but keep it non spammy!
Write your name and ‘painter,’ ‘photographer,’ or something which suggests who you are. If you have an interesting or funny title for your current series, you can include that in the subject.
- Keep the content of the email short and sweet!
Include such basic info as where you are based, what university you attended, any upcoming shows or new series of interest, and include the link to your portfolio.
- Do not include a full artist statement, just a couple of sentences about what kind of work you make. If interested, the person reading it will follow up to get more information from you.
- Attach 2 or 3 examples of your best work, not more!
All that will be left to do is wait and then follow up. Allow 10-14 days until you politely reach out again. It is worth asking for some feedback, even if they do not think your work fits with their style; you never know what useful advice you get back!
Be persistent and attend exhibitions at galleries you admire to see how they run things, learn more about their artists and, if you are feeling confident, introduce yourself!
Good luck and do not give up!
Karen Shidlo trained as a painter at Pratt Institute, NY. Having accumulated experience in art business through working at a variety of galleries and other creative businesses, she moved to London in 2010. She founded Jester Jacques Gallery in 2011 with her brother, a business and marketing expert.
“Jester Jacques goal is to both support young artists and sell limited edition prints by famous artists, making both available to the public. Through annual pop up shows, a consistently updated inventory on our online shop and regular workshops, the Gallery is a venue of interest for collector, student and buyer. Always on point with the current trends, the artwork exhibited and sold has investment potential.”