How to Approach a Gallery About Showing Your Work

Unfortunately, this is news for many artists out there. The following tips are gathered from gallery owners who deal with submissions day in and day out.

Visit the gallery and check out the website.

Well, duh, but that's how you find out about the submissions process and get a sense for the type of work the gallery shows. Galleries have a specific aesthetic and one that primarily features landscapes isn't going to go crazy for your erotic art.

Present a professional portfolio.

Quite a few artists slept through the portfolio-presentation class at art school. "I've gotten some scary submissions that look like ransom notes with illegible handwriting on ripped scraps of paper," Ragan Peck of Priceless Works Gallery told me. Andrea Porter of Bluebottle Art Gallery appreciates a "well thought out portfolio." For instance: "One image per page with details about size, medium, and title, or slides with a slide sheet. A web link works, too. A business card and an artist bio are nice, as well."

Don't just drop by.

Walking in off the street, dumping your portfolio on a gallerist's desk, and expecting an immediate offer for a solo exhibition works for about one in one million artists and, sorry to say, you probably aren't that one. Like most other gallery owners, Marcus Piña of Garde Rail Gallery prefers submissions either by mail or e-mail. Some gallery owners will make appointments, but more often they follow Piña's rule: "If we're interested, we'll call you. Don't call us." It's rare they pick up new artists through submissions, he says. "The majority of our artists we pick up through other galleries or art shows. We are always scouring the nation, and the artists we do work with we have been aware of for some time."

Don't be a jerk.

You could very well be the next Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol combined (as one artist recently proclaimed to Piña), but if your attitude stinks, don't expect anyone to take you on, much less hustle for you. Kirsten Anderson of Roq la Rue puts it this way: "Being polite works wonders. Even if the artist I'm dealing with is inappropriate for the gallery, if they are polite, I'll try to help them in other ways."

Stay in touch.

"Sending cards about your upcoming and current shows is a good thing and helps me follow your work," Peck says. Also, attending opening parties and hanging out in an uncreepy way shows you're interested in the gallery, beyond just what they can do for you.

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