The journey of an artist often involves not only creating art but also finding the right space to showcase it. For many, the very idea of approaching galleries in person invokes a blend of fear and uncertainty. Yet, as the owner of Xanadu Gallery, I have witnessed firsthand the remarkable success artists can achieve by taking this courageous step. Many of the artists currently exhibiting in Xanadu Gallery initiated their relationship with us through in-person interactions. Furthermore, having interacted with hundreds of artists who have read my book or attended my workshops, I’ve heard countless success stories about artists securing gallery representation by personally approaching galleries. This article aims to demystify the process, drawing from these rich experiences and providing practical advice for artists ready to face their fears and confidently step into the world of gallery representation.
Understanding the Importance of Preparation
In preparation for approaching galleries, artists must understand that it’s about much more than just having a portfolio of their latest works. It involves a deep, strategic preparation that encompasses creating a cohesive and consistent body of work. This is not a task to be rushed; it requires time, reflection, and an honest assessment of your art.
Your portfolio should be a well-curated collection that not only displays your technical skills and artistic style but also tells a story about who you are as an artist. It’s important to ensure that each piece aligns with your artistic vision and represents your best work. A scattered or inconsistent portfolio might confuse gallery owners about your identity as an artist. (See my tutorial on creating a digital portfolio here)
Another important strategy is to build an extensive list of potential venues. This approach is grounded in the philosophy that the more galleries you reach out to, the higher your chances of finding one that resonates with your work and is in a position to take you on. This requires broad research to identify a wide range of galleries, each with their unique style and preferences. While it’s important to find galleries that align with your artistic vision to some degree, the focus here is on quantity and diversity, expanding your reach and increasing the likelihood of successful representation. In an upcoming post, I will share more about how to effectively build this extensive gallery list, including tips on organizing your research and strategies for making impactful connections. This method is not about limiting yourself to a perfect match but about opening as many doors as possible in your journey towards gallery representation.
Preparation also involves understanding the business side of art. Be ready to discuss your career goals, artistic process, and aspirations. Being well-versed in art terminology and current trends within the art world can also be beneficial.
The Power of Personal Connection
In the digital age, where emails and online portfolios are the norms, the personal touch of an in-person meeting is often underestimated. Meeting gallery owners face-to-face allows for a genuine connection. It provides an opportunity to shake hands, look into their eyes, and have an engaging conversation about your art. This personal interaction can be a game-changer in building lasting relationships with galleries.
Facing the Fear of Rejection
One of the biggest fears artists have about approaching galleries in person is the fear of rejection. It’s important to understand that rejection is a natural part of the art business. Not every gallery will be the right fit for your work, and that’s okay. The key is to keep pushing through, knowing that each interaction, whether successful or not, is a learning experience and a step closer to finding the right gallery for you. Check out this article for more tips on facing the fear of rejection.
In-Person vs. Email Approaches
While email approaches are a viable option, they often lack the personal touch and can lead to indifference or lack of response from galleries. In-person approaches, on the other hand, offer immediate engagement and the chance to make a memorable impression. If a gallery is within reach, I always advocate for an in-person visit. For those that aren’t, a well-crafted email with a digital portfolio is a good alternative.
The Art of Persistence
Persistence is key when approaching galleries. Whether you choose to visit in person or send emails, follow-up is crucial. In the case of email, you’re more likely to face non-responses than outright rejections. Persistent yet respectful follow-ups can help keep your work at the forefront of the gallery owner’s mind.
Striking a Balance
Combine both in-person and email approaches for maximum impact. Visit galleries that are accessible to you and use emails for those that aren’t. This dual approach ensures that you are leaving no stone unturned in your quest for gallery representation.
Embracing the Challenge: Approaching Galleries Confidently
Approaching galleries in person might seem intimidating, but it’s a powerful step towards advancing your art career. Preparation, understanding the value of personal connections, persistence, and a balanced approach between in-person and email communications are key to overcoming the fear associated with this process. Remember, each gallery visit is an opportunity to grow, learn, and inch closer to your goal of finding the right gallery partnership. So take a deep breath, gather your portfolio, and step confidently into the world of gallery representation.
I invite you to share your experiences and questions about approaching galleries in the comments below. Your stories and inquiries not only enrich our understanding but also help build a supportive community for artists embarking on this journey.