The Gallery Owner Who Cooled Off

A question from a reader:

I recently moved to a completely new place and as my life and my visual input changed, so did my work. I started a couple of new series, which are related to my previous work through the subject matter, but the style is quite different. I have been looking around to see which galleries of the area could show work such as mine and have been preparing a new portfolio with my new stuff.

Some months ago, a friend who wanted to be of help, arranged an appointment for me with a gallery owner she knew. I didn’t want to show my old work, which I had already exhibited a few times and several pieces had been sold. However, I now know I wasn’t quite ready with my new portfolio at the time. I met the gallery owner and we had a very nice discussion. He seemed very professional and I liked the gallery. He looked at my portfolio and web site and said the best would be to arrange a studio visit. He kept my documentation and said he would get back to me for an appointment.

After several months, he hasn’t called and when I politely renewed my invitation during one of his openings, he said he was rather too busy. My suspicion is that he was being polite in front of our mutual friend, but I think my work was not mature and coherent enough to really interest him. Now that I have reached a point where the various pieces in my work are really falling into place together and I can present everything much better, I wonder: How can I get him to give me a second chance? It is hard enough to get a gallery owner to look at your portfolio the first time. Have you got some piece of wisdom to share on how to get back with better, more mature work to a gallery one has made a poor start with in this sense?

Maria

My response:

Thanks for sharing your experience. What you describe is definitely a situation in which many artists have found themselves, and I can understand why it would be difficult to figure out what to do. I suspect that you are right in thinking that the owner wasn’t as interested as he had initially presented himself to be. This can happen for any number of reasons. It could be, as you said, that he didn’t want to offend the mutual acquaintance. It could also be that he simply changed his mind over time. It’s also possible that the opening wasn’t the right time to try to strike up the conversation again. Openings can be very busy and it may be that he was trying to focus on other things and just wanted a quick and decisive way out of the conversation so that he could focus on buyers and the featured artist.

It can’t hurt to send an email with recent works, but I would also suggest that you contact other galleries with your work. The name of the game when approaching galleries is to show your work to a lot of galleries. It’s typically not a good idea to focus too much effort or place too many hopes on any one particular gallery.

What Would You Do

What would you suggest Maria do in this situation? Have you found yourself in similar circumstances in the past? What did you do? Please share your thoughts, experiences and ideas in the comments below.

 

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. I look forward to others’ responses to this artist. I have been concerned about this dilemma, and so haven’t approached many galleries yet, because my work is still evolving so rapidly. What I hear from the people who have bought my work through the one restaurant which always shows it, and through the one small gallery that I work with, is that my work is ready for a wider audience, but there are so few galleries that feel like a good fit for me that I feel really hesitant to approach them too soon, and thus sour the chance for a great first impression further down the line. A conundrum. I’d love any ideas.

  2. Some artists get so focused on one particular gallery, and place too much of their hopes in that “one” gallery that they stall their own progress. The gallery that you mentioned, might have lost interest for a number of reasons which have absolutely nothing to do with your work itself. I feel it would be both appropriate and wise to keep that gallery updated on your work, however at the same time you need to be approaching other galleries, and researching other galleries to contact. Ultimately you want to find a gallery which is enthusiastic about your work, and has a market for it. Evan when you find that one gallery that you click with, you need to be researching other galleries. It is a part of the job which any artist does not enjoy, but must be done. Keep working, keep growing, and keep persevering!

  3. I am currently, exactly in the same situation, when at a start gallery owner has shown interest for first two selection rounds, but after receiving dimensions of the body of the work and media, lost his interest. On a first round, gallerist shown interest to the pieces shown on social media, afterwards has chosen 2 pieces for submission from 8 presented via email. I got some sort of very polite, diplomatically mastered answer, quoting: I will get in touch when the opening/ moment arrives. As far as opening/ moment were scheduled and timeframe known, I found it as a brilliantly mastered, no. I’ve instantly sent my reply via email to gallerist stating, that my body of work will improve and that were might be new pieces of work to show “opening/when this moment” comes. Eventually, from my side, I’ve tried to keep doors opened and haven’t yelled, like, oh, thank you for letting me know, I am not suitable for the time being. Because, everything is changing. Styles, tendencies are changing, demands are changing. Now I am working on improving my body of work, going to have bigger format- dimensions pieces and working on elaborating my painting technique. Plus, previously, I haven’t been almost on social media, now I have started to post on instagram, just in case, I will have to prove to the gallery, look, people like my work. of course, these are small efforts, but I am trying.

    So, long story in a short, my advice would be, get your new piece out, present to as many galleries you can (of course, the ones matching or demanding your style niche), to work forward to get into other gallery and send a promo piece to the gallerist who refussed you. May be, may be, the whole problem was, that he didn’t trust HIMSELF, that your piece of work would bring an income to the gallery or to attract other clients. It happens, too. Good luck!

  4. Hmmm, are you reading my mind? I have a gallery I submitted to a year ago March. Since then I have learned so much about the business from Xanadu Gallery business course (thank you Jadon) and my paintings have gotten better and better. I have been wondering if I should casually send a few digital prints and see if I can spark interest or send a request to submit again. When I sent over a year ago my submission was weak. Prices were really low, the paintings were what I consider the fill in pieces, not necessarily the subject matter and connection pieces I have been doing in the last 6 months.

  5. I find that galleries have many guidelines for accepting artists. I would also like to add, that criticism is based on a lot of things and IS biased based on those criteria (clientele interests, artist CV, etc) and that an artist should not be disillusioned if an adjudicator, prospective buyer, gallery, etc does not like their work. Do not give up!!

  6. Firstly, not at an exhibition opening reception! Not ever! Secondly, gallery owners are human beings trying to represent a lot of different artists with different needs and demands, and make a living at the same time. It can be hard for us as artists to believe that our every individual approach, change and mistakes don’t have first place in the dealer’s mind, but they don’t.

    And given all that, why not get in touch with the gallery owner, one human being to another, hope things are going well on their end, and ask if there’s a good time for you to come in and have a chat. You could say you have some new pieces you think would fit their location and you’d like to show them to her/him. You do, don’t you? Do not refer to the time s/he broke your heart and say you deserve another chance. (In this, I’m kidding of course, but see the last sentence in my first paragraph.) Act as though this is a business conversation and you have something to offer.

    I’ve been doing this art career thing for a long time. I’ve also curated and organized art exhibitions and for several years operated my own commercial gallery. I know from my own experience in all these areas that no mistakes are irreparable, that gallery owners would rather have fans than foes as long as the fans are realistic, and that they all want works they can sell to their audience. Given this, if you have something this gallery might be able to use, why not create the opportunity for both of you?

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