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How to sell to an art gallery

please lo ok at my art an artist’s guide to selecting, approaching and presenting to art galleries

Copyright 2018 View Art Gallery The rights of View Art Gallery as author of the work has been asserted to them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 All rights reseved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Introduction Most artists like to focus entirely on their creativity and find marketing, selling and business administration a necessary evil. Art galleries take care of most of this for an artist once they’re ‘signed up’, but how do you find the right gallery and impress them with your talent? This guide is one gallery’s perspective on how to sell to a gallery. It is not the only way and each gallery will have their own preferences. There are many examples of seemingly outrageous stunts that have proved very successful in getting noticed. But for most people, there are some simple steps to follow that should improve the chances of success when looking to build a partnership with a gallery.

1. Build a personal brand 2. Select the right gallery 3. Prepare a submission 4. Make it work for you 5. Story time

Whether you are a first-time exhibitor or seasoned professional, we hope you find this guide useful and wish you luck in your search for the right gallery for you.

1. Build a personal brand

I’m an artist I do art

Before you start to sell yourself and your art to a gallery, you have to be very clear on who you are and what you do. A key question for a gallery is whether the artist’s personal brand aligns with the gallery brand. A personal brand is simply a description of the artist and their work. If well structured, this can be enticing and leave the gallery wanting more. Without structure, it can be a confused ramble that a busy reader will pass over before reaching the end. One way of approaching the structure is to think of the personal brand as a pyramid of information (see illustration to right). Starting with a short overview at the top and building an interesting profile through adding more detail in steps.


A short statement (one sentence) providing an overview of who you are and what you do. This should give the reader a reason to read on, based on an immediate understanding and alignment to the gallery.

Description of work

Details of the typical style, medium, subject, scale, plus some commentary on the inspiration for your art. Your passion should shine through and leave the reader excited to see the work, visit your studio, and have a desire to hear more.

Artistic status

A description of recent and future exhibitions, sales record, reviews, relevant education and awards. A chance to show off your pedigree and create some urgency in the gallery, and maybe a sense of competition for your work.

Personal story

A short journey through your artistic life - inspirations, experiences, influences and anything of personal interest. This is great material for helping galleries sell your work. Clients often enjoy the story of the artist as well as the art.

Note: if there’s nothing interesting to say in any step, don’t say it. Try and avoid any reason for the reader to be disappointed, just focus on strengths.

2. Select the right gallery

Dear world, exhibit me

If you target a gallery that shows your style of work, in your selected medium, at your typical price range, and has the right space to present it at its best, then you are significantly increasing your chance of success. If you send a mass email to a long distribution list of every gallery you can find an address for, you may not get many replies. Galleries like to know they are special, that you have done your research and you have selected them as a potential partner. If you can refer to a visit to their space, some information from their web site, or a reference from one of their artists, then you have their attention. If you pay them an informed compliment, they already like you. Having gone through the selection criteria (illustration to the right), you are now ready to show them why they should be interested in you and your amazing art.

Have you done the research? Visit websites, go to galleries, read reviews, speak to exhibiting artists. Not only will this inform your decision on who to approach, it will impress the gallery. Showing an interest and understanding is the first stage in building a relationship Does your art match their style? Establish whether the gallery exhibits your kind of art. Have they ever shown your style of work, do they specialise in any particular medium, can they accommodate the scale, are they loyal to a particular region? Does your personal brand match the gallery’s? The art is the most important factor in the gallery’s selection process, but the artist comes a close second. You need to have synergistic stories and an artistic connection. You need to know that you will be represented in a way that will show you at your best Is location an issue? A practical issue to consider - are you prepared to travel? The gallery will want to meet you and maybe visit your studio. You will need to transport art which, on a sale or return basis, represents a risk to profits Does it feel right? Gut feeling, instinct, first impressions... are often right. Art is subjective, full of different opinions, tastes, inspirations and emotional responses. If it feels right, it probably is.

3. Prepare a submission

Got any space? my art’s great

This one’s really easy - you create a submission in exactly the way that the gallery asks. If they haven’t made this clear on their website then a quick email, visit or call to ask for their preference should help. If it’s still not clear to you then there are some guidelines that will satisfy most galleries (see illustration on next page). It’s worth noting a few things to avoid here, as obvious as they may seem - they happen! • • • •

don’t try and sell to a gallery when they are trying to sell to a client, particularly at a private view; acknowledge their precious time. galleries like confidence but not arrogance or desperation; they need to believe you’ll be easy to work with. it’s not all about you; be passionate about your art, but also show an appreciation of their brand and an interest in a partnership. don’t ever be rude or unprofessional; it’s a small (art)world.

Send an introductory email

• • •

• •

Present to the gallery in person

• •

Follow Up

write a simple, enticing email title e.g. ‘new work from emerging digital artist’ start with the introductory statement from your personal brand include a sentence on why you have chosen the gallery (only write to one at a time). attach a few images of your latest work. This is the critical bit and can result in an immediate judgement. Images must be compressed so they don’t take minutes to load but of good enough quality and size to show off the work. The quality of the images will say everything about you and your work attach relevant links - website, blog, portfolio, etc create some polite urgency in your closing comments e.g. thank you for reviewing work... looking to select next gallery for exhibition by... this would usually be arranged after the introductory email and could be at the gallery or your studio (preferable if practical). ensure the portfolio is up to date and includes the latest style. Real samples are important as images have already been seen. Some photos of recent work sold or in exhibitions is a great addition make everything available from your personal brand. Gauge interest and focus on areas that are grabbing the attention. show enthusiasm to be represented by the gallery but also let them know, subtly, that they are not the only show in town... confidence not arrogance, enthusiasm not desperation if you have been successful then you simply follow the guidance of the gallery, although try and dictate the pace that suits you if there has been no response from gallery then a polite email after a few weeks would be appropriate. Rather than a re-send of old repeated information try and add something new when referring to the previous submission always ask for feedback and act on it. Rejection is hard, but its not usually permanent. Keep trying.

4. Make it work for you

It’s a yes... to the pub! So you’ve selected the gallery, built your personal brand, sent in the perfect submission, and the gallery wants to meet you... what now? Many artists feel apprehensive about this bit and, on occasions, with justification. Unfortunately, some galleries are intimidating and can appear unfriendly and judgemental. But remember they are now interested in you and what you have to sell; you are a potential means to them making money. Even though the deal isn’t yet done, you can afford to feel more confident. The same behaviours apply: respect, interest, passion, listening, enthusiasm... but the deal has to work for you. A simple checklist (see illustration to right) will ensure you are clear about your commitments, both ways, and is also likely to impress the gallery, and even make them start selling to you.

List of questions to ask gallery 1. What promotion and advertising do you do for your exhibitions and artists? 2. How long do you keep the work for - just the show or retain some in inventory? 3. Does my pricing range seem right for your gallery and clients? 4. How many pieces do you typically take and how long is an exhibition? 5. Do you have a written contract - can I see a copy? 6. Would I be given some marketing material to help promote the show - either print or online? 7. How much commission do you take? Is this after any significant production costs? 8. Do you do art fairs? How do you select your artists would my work be suitable? 9. Can I exhibit with other galleries? Do you expect exclusivity for a period? 10. Do you have any immediate ideas on sales opportunities to known clients? 11. What material do you need from me and when - images, artist statement, bio, etc? 12. Are you able to ‘shake hands’ now, or when would I expect to know?

5. Story time

Are yo u sitting co mfortably?

Everything is so much easier when there’s a story to be told. Art sells better when we can relate to a personal experience or imagined event. We love to tell stories about our new art purchase, whether it be something fascinating about the artist or in the making of the art. Visitors to galleries love to talk about their unique experience, good or bad. Most artists love to hear comments made about their art, positive and negative (indifference is the biggest insult). The more drama the better; we love to be shocked, made to laugh, moved to cry... we love a good story. So here are some tales (see page right) of real experiences from our gallery when being approached by artists - good, bad, funny and sad.


email title for an artist’s submission ...

“Oi mate, take a look at this” ... delete

artist presenting their portfolio ...


“I’m not really bothered whether I’m in this show or not” ... great art but poor attitude - no show

artist cold calling during a customer viewing ...


“I love your gallery. Do you mind if I have a look round while you review my portfolio” ... asked to make an appointment

email reply having been rejected ...

“Your comments relate only to one style. Please look at these and reconsider”


... they got an exhibition

opening line of an email submission...


“I was recommended by xxx who has shown with you three times” ... we visited their studio

follow up to an email submission...

“sorry to hassle you but I have been invited by another gallery to an art fair, but I’d rather be represented by you” ... we moved them up the priority list, with success


thank yo u for read ing


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Selling to a Gallery  

An artists guide on who and how to approach when looking for a gallery

Selling to a Gallery  

An artists guide on who and how to approach when looking for a gallery