How are you going to get in to an art gallery? Well there are a lot of important pieces to this. The first and most important thing is do your homework.
One art gallery owner said to me, “You know it’s amazing. I’ll get thirty, forty, fifty, sixty submissions a year from somebody who does modern art and we don’t carry modern art. So why are they wasting their postage? Why are they wasting my time? Don’t they go to our website and see what we carry and see the type of artists we have? We carry mostly traditional work, mostly figurative work. Why are they sending me something that doesn’t match?”
Are you selling images of seascapes to a gallery that doesn’t sell seascapes? Are you trying to sell portraiture to a gallery that doesn’t carry portraiture? Study the galleries first, and then target the galleries into which your art fits.
Ask yourself what you could do differently that the gallery owner or gallery director will pay attention to. Well, if you think about a thousand or two thousand or three thousand or four thousand submissions a year, you’ve got to be very different. Zig when everybody else zags. In other words, if everybody else is doing something one way, you need to do it another way.
Art Marketing Advice: Brand to Gallery Owners
The most important thing you can do for an art gallery is to build credibility in their eyes. Most galleries have ample artists. They will tell you they’re not adding any more artists. Yet if they find someone they think will be successful, they will add them.
What will make them think that you’re successful? Relate to the art gallery. What does an art gallery care about? They care whether or not you sell. Can you provide evidence?
Gallery owners, gallery directors are constantly watching. Who is it that others are talking about? Who are others advertising? I’ve had dozens of galley owners tell me they picked up artists they saw advertising in our magazines and others. The best way to be successful is to pretend to be successful. So if you’re already in an art gallery, get them to do some co-op advertising, make sure that your name is out there, or run ads for yourself. Other galleries and other markets might see you and say, “I want that artist.”
Target galleries that you want on social media. Like them or follow them and pay attention to what they’re talking about. Make meaningful comments from time to time to get noticed.
A magnificent tool is asking for advice. That’s how I got into my first art gallery. I sent a painting to the gallery owner, called her in advance, and said, “Listen, would you be willing to give me a critique? I haven’t been in a gallery yet and I’m a little insecure about it. I’m not targeting you, but would you mind just going ahead and looking at my work?”
She looked at my work, she picked up the phone, she said, “You know, I’d like to put you in my gallery.” I said, “Well, that’s not the reason we’re talking. I really want to know what I can do to improve.” She gave me some tips, and that was helpful.
If you can get invited in, that’s gold. What strategies can you use to make people ask? What things will make people want to have you in their gallery? Look for some of those opportunities and capitalize on them.
Referrals are important to galleries. Do your homework. Find out what artists are already there. If you see a friend of yours, or someone you think you might be able to contact, call them and say, “Hey, what’s it like in XYZ gallery? Do they treat you well? Do they sell anything? Would you look at my art and tell me if you think I’m fit for this gallery? Would you be willing to make an introduction?” Most artists will do that.
There are people out there who believe that the environment today no longer requires you to have a gallery to sell your art. I know very important artists who are very successful and no longer need a gallery. They sell direct, not through galleries, and they make a lot of money.
Are Art Galleries Worth Their Fees?
I know an artist in the east who says that the amount of money that you give up every year to an art gallery, your forty or fifty percent, if you take that same amount of money and invest it in building your brand and driving people to your website or to the gallery that you own, that you can be successful. I think that’s possibly true.
But it’s not something that happens overnight. It’s easy for an artist to say that when they’re a national treasure, when they’re well-known. These people oftentimes were built by other galleries.
One of the great things a gallery can offer you is a built-in client base. They already have a list, they already have buyers, they will advertise you, and they will build an audience for you.
I know this sounds crazy but if I had a choice between getting into a major art gallery vs marketing myself, I’d choose the major gallery. Why? I want them to build my prices. I want them to build my collector base. I want them to advertise me in conjunction with their good name. This is valuable. Plus, although art marketing is my thing, and I’ll never let go of control, they can probably ramp up my success and make my work famous, and get me into the right shows easier than I can do with marketing on my own. Then I don’t have to think about it as much.
Editor’s note: Creating and selling your art is a journey. Tell us about your art goals in the comments below, and let us know what topics you’d like to read about in the future!
This article is an excerpt from Make More Money Selling Your Art: Proven Techniques for Turning Your Passion Into Profit by Eric Rhoads (get your copy here).