Friday, February 25, 2011

Artists Approaching Art Galleries

At Boston Handmade we love discovering resources to share with our online community. We recently came across this helpful list for visual artists who are planning to approach fine art galleries, written by (and reprinted here with permission from) Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs.
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The Six Most Common Mistakes Artists Make When Approaching Galleries

Mistake #1: Presenting an inconsistent body of work. Artists love their freedom. They want to experiment, and crave variety. All good things, except when you are presenting your work to a gallery. The work you present to a gallery needs to be unified. It doesn’t need to be repetitive or formulaic, but it must present you as a consistent artist with a clear vision. If you work in several media and a variety of styles, focus on just one for the next 6-12 months. Create a body of work that feels like a “series”. Once you have 20-25 pieces in this series, you will be ready to approach a gallery.

You can further create consistency by presenting the work in a cohesive way. Use similar frames for all of your paintings or photographs, similar bases for your sculptures, or similar settings for your artistic jewelry. Make it very clear all of the work is by the same artist. If you simply can’t rein your style in, consider creating multiple portfolios, one for each style.

Mistake #2: Producing insufficient work to sustain gallery sales. Successful artists are consistently in the studio creating artwork. Gallery owners need to feel confident you will replace sold art quickly and maintain high quality. They want to know that if you are successful you can replenish their inventory. Several suggestions to increase your productivity:

1. Dedicate time daily to your art. Treat your studio time as sacred. Train your family and friends to respect that time. You don’t interrupt them when they are at work; ask them the same courtesy when you are in the studio.

2. Set a production goal. Create 1 or 2 pieces per week. A common objection I hear to this suggestion is that quality will suffer if an artist works this quickly. In my experience, the opposite is true. A certain level of quality may only be obtained by putting miles on the paintbrush, spending hours in the darkroom, moving tons of clay or stone.

3. Remove distractions from the studio. Move your computer to another room. Unplug the telephone. Nothing kills an artist’s focus faster than the constant interruption of technology.

Mistake #3: Delivering a portfolio in a format inconvenient for gallery review. Often your portfolio is your only chance to show your work to a gallery owner. Poorly formatted portfolios are rarely viewed. Your portfolio should be concise, simple, informative and accessible. Things to keep in mind with your portfolio:

1. Your portfolio should contain no more than 20-25 of your most recent works. A gallery owner does not want to see your life’s work. They want to see your best, most current, most relevant work.

2. On each page you should include pertinent, relevant information about the art. Include the title, the medium, the size, and the price. Don’t include the date of artwork creation.

3. Place your bio, artist’s statement, and resume at the back of the portfolio, not the beginning. Your artwork is the most important feature of the portfolio, don’t bury it behind your info. Limit press clippings, and magazine articles to 2-3 pages.

4. Include 2-3 images of sold artwork. You should try to include at least one photo of your artwork installed. These images will establish your credibility more rapidly than any resume ever could.

Mistake #4: Lacking confidence and consistency in pricing. One of the greatest challenges facing you as an artist is knowing how to correctly value your work. Many artists price their work emotionally, and inconsistently. Galleries can’t sell wrongly priced art. Many artists mistakenly under-price their work. They do this because they feel they are not established, because their local art market won’t sustain higher prices, or because they lack confidence in their work.

Mistake #5: Approaching the wrong galleries. My gallery is located in an art market dominated by Southwest and Western subject matter. My gallery stands apart from most of the galleries in Arizona because I have chosen art outside the norms. Yet I am constantly contacted by Western and Southwestern artists. They seem surprised and hurt when I turn them away. They could have saved us both some discomfort by researching my gallery before approaching.

Mistake #6: Submitting art through the wrong channels. Conventional wisdom, and even some highly respected art marketing books will advise you to send your portfolio with a cover letter to the gallery. You may also hear it's best to call a gallery and try to make an appointment to meet the owner. You might visit a gallery's website to learn of their submission guidelines.

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Gallery owner Jason Horejs has written a book called, "Starving" To Success The Fine Artist's Guide to Getting into Galleries and Selling More Art in which he shares information "that will help you approach galleries in an organized, systematic and professional manner, build your brand as an artist, communicate effectively with your galleries, and much more." He also advises...

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Get Organized! As you ramp up production and build more relationships with galleries, it is critical that you organize your work. If you can put a system in place to get organized and then stick to it then you can take the pain out of putting your studio in order.

1. Move your inventory record-keeping to the computer. Having a good, simple inventory program in place to organize your artwork is going to vastly simplify your record-keeping process.

2. Start using an inventory number with each piece of artwork. Having a numbering system in place will allow you to instantly identify work and tie it back to your inventory system.

3. Include all of the information about your artwork on the artwork.

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Looking for additional information on the business of being an artist? Check out some book recommendations from artist Eliza Tobin, and consider taking an Arts Marketing class sponsored by Boston Handmade.

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