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.

 

 

 

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. 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.

6 Comments

  1. Hi Jason,
    I agree with your comment to follow up with the gallery via email. Things change in galleries all the time, and though you feel he may have cooled off, it is possible that there were other circumstances in play. There is nothing to be lost by sending some fabulous new images so the gallery can reassess your works, thanking them for their time and interest at the same time.
    An art exhibition opening is definitely the worst time to approach a gallery owner and it amazes me that artists still think it is okay to do this. I have had artists thrust their business cards at me when I am dealing with clients in the gallery, and this certainly skews my ideas of how easy or difficult it would be to deal with this artist should their works make it to the gallery walls.
    My advice to artists (as a gallery owner), is that if a gallery expresses interest in your work, to follow through in every way as soon as possible. Don’t leave it for a couple of weeks, or months as the gallery will have moved on. Jason’s previous advice in this regard is to be prepared in advance when approaching galleries – have a new body of work ready to go. Portfolios, images with details all prepared etc. When sending images, make sure to give the size, and medium and general expected pricing so that the gallery does not have to email back and forth to find out these basic details.
    Best wishes Maria, and just keep sending your art to galleries and you will find a fit 🙂

    1. quick question.. these days since much has changed over the decades I have been an artist…when a gallery owner talks about a portfolio…what kind of portfolio? One on a DVD, in a bound book, on a website, in a physical portfolio? I suspect that seeing art on the internet is definitely easy but hardly preferable as it is many times hard to imagine the size and texture etc of an artwork. I have had so much advice over the years and it changes constantly from the days when slides were submitted to self published pamphlets, to lugging a huge portfolio from door to door, to sending in a CD/DVD, to hoping the gallery owner will bother to look at your website. A successful artist suggested I make some books online of work now that we can do slick actual books and leave with the galleries I want to be in. Another artist suggested flying into the major cities after looking up their inventory online and emailing them asking for an appt on the day you will be in that city. It all is a bit confusing and it has actually stopped me from looking for a gallery for the very reason that if I approach with the wrong portfolio I will be dismissed out of hand.

      1. Hi Kay,
        I think it does not matter so much HOW you get your work to be viewed by a gallery, because your work will speak for it self to them; if they see it in an email, or on printed paper, or online, or if you take it physically to them. If the gallery likes what they see, they will then ask to see a piece up close, and take it from there.
        For our gallery, the best thing an artist can do it to email us with a few images attached of their most recent works, with details about the work and a very brief summary about themselves and previous sales, other galleries they are represented by etc. We can then make an appointment to see an artwork if we are interested. It is quite an immediate process, to decide if we think an artist’s works will sell well in the gallery.
        It is also okay if an artist comes in to the gallery, and asks us to make an appointment to bring new works in to show us.
        The worst thing an artist can do, it to make us look while they scroll through their mobile phones to find a picture of their work. Or as before, approach us on a gallery opening evening.
        Email every gallery who you think might be a good fit for your work. Research the galleries you approach as well – take an interest in them and their artwork journey.
        Hope that has helped. Best wishes to you.

    2. Hi sorry I did not answer properly. By portfolio, I think a PDF portfolio is good. Easy to attach to an email, easy to look at and the gallery can print it out if they wish.

  2. Don’t focus so much attention on one gallery. You want a gallery which is excited about your work, and anxious to represent you. If your work has changed significantly then I would reconnect with him, however don’t sit around waiting for his answer.

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