How does an artist find the best gallery representation? Note: best not perfect! Like any relationship, it will be more satisfying if you search for the best scenario and not expect perfection. I advise artists to think about finding a gallery, like looking for a job. It is more productive to identify a few potential galleries and determine if you are a good match. Then you can make a decision about whether or not to take the next step to make contact.
Like most careers, there will be a time when things don’t go exactly as planned. If you work long enough, you will experience some ups and downs—and may have to endure a difficult boss (or gallery curator). Try to stay positive. It is counterproductive to let a few bad experiences color your beliefs and attitudes about gallery relationships—especially those rumored. Remember, dealing with an art gallery is a business relationship, and it takes two to tango! As in all cases, there are always two sides to a story, so don’t believe the tales (gossip) from a third party.
Having had 40+ years of business experience, my best advice is to scope out a gallery quietly. Visit their website, read their newsletters, talk to their artists, and visit to observe how the staff conducts business. You will learn what you need to know just by observing. Think of gallery hunting like job hunting. Would you work for a company that was short on integrity or had a poor reputation? Of course not. Make sure your prospects are a good fit, and your art could benefit or contribute to the gallery. Then call or write for a personal interview with the decision-maker (gallery owner). If you can’t find information on the gallery’s website about how their submission process works, be sure to ask. Never show up without an appointment. Be respectful of the gallery’s business hours and the staff’s time.
To prepare for your interview, be sure to complete your due diligence ahead of time and stick to the schedule the gallery sets up for your meeting. Be professional, dress appropriately, and take examples of your best work or portfolio. The gallery will have a list of questions for you, so you too should be prepared with answers about your track record and your own questions about their processes and programs.
If and when you are invited to join a gallery, work hard to meet the gallery’s expectation, and don’t forget to ask them, “what can I do?” to help with sales and promotion. Like any relationship, it takes two working together to achieve a long and rewarding experience.
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Sharon is the owner of The Hunter Wolff Gallery, an upscale Art Gallery located in Old Colorado City.
She has an innate ability to identify accomplished artists as well as emerging artists to help fill her gallery with some of the most beautiful and thought-provoking art in Colorado. With over 15 years as an art dealer, she has acquired quite a lot of knowledge about the art world. I am pleased to have her as a guest author on the blog to share what she has learned.
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