Contacting an art gallery for the first time can be an intimidating experience. This article is all about making it more comfortable for you. This is your first contact, so you should make the best first impression you possibly can. Appearing professional is of the utmost importance!
First, you should search for the gallery website on the internet. Look for the contact page. The email, phone number, and mailing address of the art gallery should be listed there.
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Ways for approaching an art gallery for the first time
Contact by Email
When contacting by email, it is important to appear as professional as you can. Start off with “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom it may Concern”, as the person reading may be either male or female. Include a short one paragraph bio.
Artwork Images: Attach sample images of your best artwork, 5 at the most, unless the gallery tells you different.
Make sure the file size isn’t too large – some galleries may have dial up internet. Label them in the file title in an easy identifiable format. Eg. 1-Title-YourName
In your email body, include descriptions for each artwork in the following format:
Sample 1 – Artwork Title, Medium, Size (Eg. Sample 1 - Entwined, Oil on Canvas, 48x60”)
Also, give them a link to where they can view more. It may be more effective if you curate a selection of your artworks on a specific page on your website, and always give galleries this link.
Conclude your email message with a friendly message:
Thank-you kindly for your consideration!
Don’t forget to fill in the subject line of your email in a professional manner as well. Definitely do not use all caps. Say something like “Artist Submission from Graham Matthews”
Contact by telephone
If you are nervous abut calling, you can always use email. Prepare what you are going to say beforehand. Greet them, tell them your name, where you are from, your intentions, and let them know what your art is all about in no more than 2 or 3 sentences.
Here is a sample statement:
Good day! My name is Graham Matthews. I am an artist from Pacquet, Newfoundland. I currently specialize in semi-abstract oil paintings based on rural Newfoundland themes, such as fish, icebergs, boats, and the fishery. I’m calling to inquire about possibly exhibiting in your gallery, and your process for admitting artists.
The conversation may continue by them telling you their process for artist submissions, either by sending some samples by email or arranging a meeting. (sometimes both) If you have an official website with a portfolio, let them know. Remember, it will look much more impressionable to an art gallery if the website has a unique domain (your own name on it), and not a free portfolio site such as Wix or Fine Art America. If you don’t have your own self-hosted website, I would say to let them know your Facebook page.
Approaching them in person
Most art gallery owners prefer that artists don’t just walk in without calling first. The gallery owner may be in the process of making a sell. Contact galleries by email or phone, and schedule time for an appointment. Bring along some images of your art, preferably in a binder or portfolio case. If this is an interview, and not some casual meeting, please refer to our tutorial for preparing for a gallery interview.
Now, if you are REALLY outgoing, you may benefit from just making your first contact in person. The gallery owner will see your personality first hand. They obviously are looking for artists who can sell themselves and present their art in the best possible light. I know artists who can talk up a storm, even though their art isn’t that good. But, their art sells mostly because they can explain it eloquently, and influence people to buy it.
Contacting by Postal Mail (Snail Mail)
Include a type written statement about your art, and attach 10 high quality images of your best artworks. Attach your art resume and artist statement as well. Label them in your message the same way I described for the email. Also, label each photograph on the back with your name, title, medium, size, and price. If you do color slides, you can send these in place of the images.
In the statement, include your art website, email address, phone number, and full mailing address.
Also attach an envelope that is self-addressed and stamped to ensure images and slides are returned.
Have you had to approach an art gallery, and how was your experience? If you are an art gallery owner, do you have any advice to share to artists on how you like to be contacted?
Thank you Graham you are a fount of knowledge for the Art community. Yes I've approached four galleries and been accepted by three. Actually in the first instance I had been to the gallery on several occasions over the years and had in depth personal conversations with the owner so I really only went there looking for advice. In retrospect the owner probably thought I was asking for my work to be hung in the gallery but it wasn't my intention.ReplyDelete
I had been painting for some time, enjoying the process and learning masses. I had shown a few paintings to friends and acquaintances and they were asking how much I would sell them for - I didn't have a clue. Hence the visit to the gallery to get feedback. I was so innocent in those days. The gallery was empty and I asked for a moment to ask advice. I explained I was just starting out and people were showing interest. I had a small portfolio with a few framed paintings and proceeded to show them. (If I approach a gallery now I leave my portfolio in the car until they ask).
The "feedback", which didn't answer my question, was destructive, actually downright nasty, gave the main impression I was wasting my time and my Art was worthless and to basically get out and never come back (something I have adhered to since then which is a shame because the gallery lost a potential customer). I was shocked and horrified and a lesser person would have given up painting on that day.
I later found out the gallery hadn't sold one thing in two months and the owner was a failed painter, which I'm sure had an influence on the outburst. Nevertheless there were many lessons learned that day.
My best advice is to create a substantial body of work and focus on building your self-esteem before shopping around for a gallery. When you're ready follow Graham's advice and you can't go wrong.
Thanks Sea Dean for the great advice, and I'm glad you never gave up. I certainly agree that an artist should only approach a gallery when they are ready - have a large enough collection, really focused in what they are creating, and able to explain it really well.
Hi, Graham. I'm in need of some advice for a particular situation--the promoter of a New York show (my first group show there) has advised me to contact dealers in the area of the show prior to the opening-multiple times to try to get them there to see my work. Do you agree with this, and would the email method work best?ReplyDelete
@Janet Glatz Hi Janet. I tend to agree, but I would try different methods of contact ... speaking with them on the phone, speaking with them in person if possible, sending a reminder email... try to get them to know you. They may be more likely to show up if they feel they know you - and this can only happen through continuous contact.ReplyDelete
Please let us know how it goes.
I quess It's different in Europe, here It's quite akward to make any contact at all, trying to sell your work to a gallery. Of course you can have conversations, about anything and yourself. But when you approach them to sell/show your art, they never accept you. They like to pick the artists themselves. I would never contact them by mail. When you e-mail a gallery, It's easier for them to ignore you, or say no. What you could do is to ask them to visit your art studio and show your work. This is proffesional and personal. The gallery can get a good view on your work and method this way.ReplyDelete