Success Story | Persistence Pays off in Gallery Search

I recently received the following email from a “Starving” to Successful workshop attendee. Congratulations to Bill for being organized, bold and persistant!

Dear Jason,

I wanted to share my success story with you. I learned a lot in the workshop you gave in San Diego recently but the best tool you provided was how to prepare for approaching galleries. I had the opportunity  to go to Palm Desert this last weekend for a little “getaway” with my wife. I figured this would be a good opportunity to try out what I had learned, since there are many fine galleries on El Paseo in Palm Desert.

The upcoming trip motivated me with a deadline to finish the portfolio and artist statement so that I could be prepared. On Saturday, my wife and I took in the shops and galleries along El Paseo. We like to look in galleries anyway but this time I was looking for galleries that might be a good fit for the kind of work I do. Sure enough, I found 8 or so galleries that I really liked but as we looked around at all the wonderful art in all kinds of media, my confidence began to wane. I started to have doubts and wasn’t feeling very confident that night as I organized and re-organized my portfolio and rehearsed my approach.

On Sunday, I dropped my wife off to do some shopping. There are lots of fine, expensive shops along El Paseo so, I was a bit worried about her shopping but I was more worried about how the gallery owners might treat me. Nevertheless, I kept giving myself pep talks and reminded myself that the important thing was just to do it and not worry about outcomes. I built up enough courage to walk into my top gallery and confidently presented my portfolio in the way you suggested in the workshop. To my surprise, the fellow took the book and started to thumb through it. I didn’t notice, though, that he was leading me toward the door as he did so. But he politely thanked me for showing him my work, said it wasn’t right for his gallery and wished me success, actually suggesting another gallery I might try, as he skillfully ushered me out the door.

I moved on to my next target. Once again, as you predicted, the fellow I approached started to look through the portfolio. I kept quiet, again as you suggest, and he called his partner over. Together they went through the pictures of my work and started to ask me questions. I was surprised at how easy it was to answer the questions because they were all about my work and I enjoy talking about my art. In the end, though, they agreed that the work wasn’t right for their gallery, gave me my portfolio back and wished me luck.

After two rejections I was actually feeling pretty good. I congratulated myself for going into the galleries, sticking to the “formula” and meeting with the success of people apparently taking me seriously. So, at the third gallery I felt pretty comfortable and wasn’t worried about rejection. The owner of the third gallery, though, seemed a little wary of me as I strode right up to him. I’m sure he knew what I was up to. But, I told him I had been in the gallery the day before, liked it and was now back to see if he would have a look at my portfolio, which, of course, was already in his hand.

He began to look quickly at the picture of my work, then slowed down, looked through it again, then went back to the beginning a third time and slowly looked at each piece. I remained silent. He said, “Let’s have a seat.” We ended up talking for at least 2 hours and he asked to see some of my work which, fortunately, I had brought along. And, in the end, I left him with one piece and we signed a contract for his gallery to represent me.

As I left, he said that in the 6 years or so that he has been in the art business, I am only the third “walk-in” he has taken and sometimes he gets as many as seven artists a day approaching him. I think he was impressed with my glass, (it turns out that he collects glass himself) but I also think that the information you presented in your workshop was the key ingredient to my getting gallery representation. This is definitely going to take me in new and exciting directions. I cannot thank you enough.

Gratefully,

Bill Matulich

www.billsglassart.com

Starving to Successful

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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

3 Comments

  1. Jason, It comes down to persistence, and confidence, to keep going into those galleries. Even with the economy in a weak recovery, there’s still great hope once you are out there, showing your work. And you never know from one day to the next. And I continue to grow a client list, including potential patrons.

    Basically, I take a couple of my pieces “on the road,” when I have to travel these days, and will let you know if this works by the end of the year. Of course, there’s a month and a half left, so there’s always a good chance to sell some art along the way.

  2. First off….congrats on your contract with the gallery.
    I must say, I haven’t gone to the workshop, but did read the book and found it refreshing to see that it confirmed exactly the way I was doing things to promote my art already. Yes…direct seems to always work. And, as you discovered from the first two rejections, by the time you get to the next your courage is up and your feeling of “what can they say except no” is putting you right into the right place.
    Thanks for sharing the story.

  3. As a gallery owner in a regional city, I get about six or more “walk-ins” a day. It can get very tiring, especially when things are quiet, and all we need are art buyers, or there will be no gallery in the future to “walk-in” to.

    Now I can pick the artists that come in(I am an artist myself), and to speed up the process I ask if they are an artist and what they do. Just to get it over with quickly. I am happy to look at everyone’s work, if they send me an email with a link to, or images of their work.

    What I really don’t like is when the artists come in with no interest in looking at the gallery or the art on display there at all – and when they interrogate me straight up how the gallery is run and what is the commission etc etc etc.

    Another thing that may swing me away from looking at an artist’s work is if, after I request that they email me with links/images, they whip out their phones and start scrolling through family photos and worse, trying to find a photo of their work. I keep saying that I will not wait while people scroll through their phones anymore, but artists (and worse parents or brothers or aunts or sisters of artists) keep doing that to me.

    Just some information for artists approaching galleries to give some thought and respect to the gallery owners.

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