No one says breaking into the glamorous world of art is easy. But when you think about it, breaking into any creative career can be difficult. Just ask any successful artist and he will tell you that the journey from artist-in-training to paid artist is equal parts terrifying, exciting, and challenging, but above all, the journey is rewarding—in more ways than one. This is especially true when you have talent, tenacity, and a good amount of guidance on your side. When armed with these valuable traits and tools, you will find that breaking into (and making your way through) the art world and the gallery system will seem a lot less elusive and more within your reach.
So, we’re assuming that you have the talent and tenacity part covered. We’ll handle the guidance. Let’s get started with that all-important first impression.
You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression
Professionalism plays a vital role in how galleries perceive you, so making a positive first impression is crucial. This means you’ll have to pay close attention to a number of details well before approaching a gallery. If you do, you just might make it past the front door. So first things first: compile a list of galleries that sound appealing to you. Try using a print or online gallery guide such as Art-Collecting.com to browse through potential galleries. When the list is ready, it’s time to do your due diligence.
Performing Due Diligence
Never, ever approach a gallery or other venue before thoroughly researching it. Remember, although it may not appear this way at times, each gallery specializes in a particular style or type. If your work does not reflect a galleries style, they will not accept your work—even if it’s exceptional.
Visiting the Galleries
Next, once you’ve whittled your list to several suitable galleries, it’s time to visit. Go to all of the exhibitions and openings. Attend any gatherings by the galleries’ artists and get to know who’s who—all while putting your best foot forward. This may or may not lead to a request to see your work. Either way, it is extremely important to follow protocol to the letter.
Most galleries that accept submissions offer submission guidelines on their website or via mail. They are usually very specific about their needs, the files, formats, and sizes they prefer, and much more. Nothing annoys a gallery representative more than “improvising other ways to submit work,” as one gallery mentions in its guidelines. Not only will this hurt your chances of working with your target gallery, it could affect your reputation in the art world before you’ve had a chance to establish one!
So Here It Is. . .
Taking the time to do due diligence, targeting the appropriate galleries, putting in the effort to engage with your target galleries, and following their guidelines to the letter will speak volumes about your professionalism, your work ethic, and how serious you are about becoming successful as an artist. This will help you get noticed within the gallery system and maybe even help you secure a spot in upcoming or other future exhibitions. Good Luck!
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