Ask a Gallery Owner | Best Approach for Remote Galleries

I wanted to know, if you are unable to go to a gallery because of distance and you are interested in showing your work in hopes of getting included within a gallery, what is the best way to do so? I can’t tellĀ  how many times I have sent brochures and I get no response. I often feel deflated that perhaps my work isn’t good enough but when people see my work, I hear nothing but praises.

Thank you, Suzanne

Suzanne,

This is a question I receive frequently. Most artists would like to show in galleries outside their home region, but the logistics of establishing relationships and then maintaining them can be a bit daunting. You might think that in this age of digital communication it should be easy enough to reach out to galleries through email, physical digital photos of your work, or, as you mentioned, a brochure.

The results you report are common – that is, many artists are mailing out materials to galleries but never hear back from them. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be, and it certainly can damage your confidence. For just a minute though, I want you to turn the tables and step into the shoes of a gallery owner (how’s that for mashing a few cliches into one sentence?!) Realize that in an average week a gallery may receive dozens of submissions (or more!) While our business is built on relationships with artists, the hard reality is that we simply don’t have time to review all of the submissions that come to us – we’re too busy trying to sell art. I am going to admit a gallery secret- 99% of the submissions I receive in the mail are never seriously reviewed – many simply end up in the trash.

If you are going to send out brochures or photos of your work, I suggest you start thinking in terms of the odds. If the odds are very low thatĀ  a gallery is going to seriously review your work, the corollary is you need to send out a high number of submissions to hope for success. Sending out 3-4 brochures isn’t going to accomplish much, but sending out 300-400 might. Of course, you start running into pretty serious expenses as you get to those kind of numbers or greater, which is why I wouldn’t rely on mailed submissions as my primary method for approaching galleries.

So what to do? Anyone who has read my book, “Starving” to Successful, knows that I advocate an in person approach to galleries. You might wince at the thought of having to pack up and travel off to meet gallery owners in person, and you may even feel a little intimidated by the prospect. If you do the math however, traveling is going to cost less than sending out hundreds of brochures and is going to be far more effective.

Several things to keep in mind when preparing for an in-person approach to a gallery:

  1. You want to be able to present a body of cohesive, gallery-ready work
  2. You want to use a flexible, portable portfolio to make your presentation – (free video on how to create a portfolio on www.xanadugallery.com)
  3. Do your homework ahead of time to make sure you are only approaching appropriate galleries for your work (this will save you time and disappointment)

Of course, there is a lot of preparation that goes into approaching a gallery – more than I can go into here. The first step is to start thinking in this direction and start looking at art markets you would like to approach. Remember, there are galleries everywhere, so if you are going to be traveling in the near future keep in mind that most likely, no matter where you are going you can find potential galleries for your work.

Thanks for the question, and I’ll be posting more on the topic in the coming weeks.

Jason

J. Jason Horejs

Owner

Xanadu Gallery | Scottsdale, AZ | www.xanadugallery.com

Readers: have you had successful experiences approaching galleries either by mail or in person? Share them, along with what you felt made the difference in your approach, in the comments below.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of Dad was an Artist | A Survivor's Story and best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business. Connect with Jason on Facebook

2 Comments

  1. Jason is right. It is by far the best method. Think about it. Most business really is done best face to face. However, even approaching galleries in person can have its draw backs. Some galleries look down on it. I have had some be extemely gracious and some very rude. However, if you target the right gallery and your work is solid you will find success.

  2. Yes, Jason is right. I’ve used his technique for about 9 months now and I’ve gotten into three galleries with more in my radar. Hard to believe as it may be, as a rule, galleries are friendly and receptive when you walk in and start following Jason’s directions. Out of about 20 galleries (maybe more – I haven’t really counted) only one was a lemon for me. The gallery people love to talk art and see fresh stuff (if they’re not helping customers) so even if they feel you’re not right for the gallery, they will engage with you. And they don’t invite you to join the gallery immediately. My latest gallery invitation was with a gallery I first approached last October and he said I’m not right for his gallery. I added him to my email list and postcard mailer list and he finally asked me to join his gallery.

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