Tuesday, February 11, 2020

How to find an art gallery for your art

This is a checklist of questions for how to find an Art Gallery which provides a good fit for both your artwork and your achievements to date - and offers you good prospects.

I saw a query today on Facebook from somebody who was looking for suggestions of suitable art galleries for his art.

I provided a short cut answer. This is the longer version.

Interior of an art gallery in Chelsea

How to find an art gallery 

It's worth doing your homework and looking at the options and opportunities - and the competition.

A suggested approach and checklist

Here's my suggested approach and checklist of questions - which is based on my preference for finding out as much as you can BEFORE you have a conversation or email them.

How to find an art gallery in your area

Make a list of art galleries near you 
  • Go to Google Maps
  • Put your address in to get a starting point
  • now add add "art gallery" to the "nearby" search button
  • this will generate flags with a palette icon of all the art galleries near your home
  • you can also add "art galleries" and this will generate a different list - of those with 'Galleries' in their name
  • the number of galleries will vary depending on what you call your location (eg your local village / town / county / region etc)

Art Galleries near a location in East London
(we have a LOT of artists living here!)

How to find a gallery which fits your art

LOOK at their websites - in depth

  • put the name of the Gallery into Google
  • note where on the first page of Google the website comes (it should come top)
  • delete from the list any galleries that do not have a website.
  • write down everything important about the gallery that is on the website - and summarise

REVIEW what sort of art they sell 

  • Is it compatible with your art? 
  • Would your art "fit"?
  • (e.g. if you paint realism and then deal in contemporary abstraction - then it's not for you - and vice versa)
  • Check out the artists on the "Artists" page. Do you and your art compare well?

REVIEW the business model for the gallery

Different art galleries have different business models - you need to work out how it works re getting shown and getting paid
  • when founded? Who owns?
  • how long at this address? One branch or more than one branch?
  • owner-led or consortium run or rent a space?
  • based on sales in the gallery only - or also attending art fairs?
  • gallery artists with regular solo shows - or ad hoc group shows with lots of different artists?
  • inviting artists to be represented?
  • information for artists seeking representation - or not?

REVIEW the prices of art the gallery sells

  • to "join the club" and get shown by this gallery your track record of SALES (i.e. not the prices you ask for your art) needs to be compatible with the price range for works on sale at the gallery. 
  • sometimes you can only find out price ranges by visiting or looking at exhibition catalogues (you can't do everything online!)
  • you can be on the high side or low side - but you shouldn't be altogether outside the range
  • check out the artists whose artwork is priced similarly to yours. How does your experience and background compare? 
  • Is your artwork similar but distinctively different? i.e. would your artwork add value or be "more of the same"

REVIEW the number of artists who do the same subject matter / style as you

  • Seeing art like yours is a good sign (i.e. they already have art collectors who like your genre).
  • HOWEVER the number of artists already signed up may well mean they don't want any more at the moment - unless you have something unique to offer
  • Check whether all the artists whose work is shown are also listed in the Artists section re the Gallery (i.e. check whether they are longstanding Gallery Artists - or just showing in a group show as a try out)

Further research

Think about this a bit like buying a house or a car. Would you make a decision on an impulse or do your homework and some further research before making a decision 
eg check out the area, what's the foot traffic like, is their online presence as good as their bricks & mortar set-up - or maybe better?

CREATE a shortlist of the ones to visit and look at their set up

  • Rank the galleries in order of preference. (Visiting art galleries can be time consuming and tiring!)
  • Ask others in the area what they think of your shortlisted galleries.
  • Visit the gallery - and dress appropriately (i.e. do not look odd or stick out - you are investigating and hence want to blend in rather than draw attention to yourself.)
  • Do NOT ask questions - you only ask questions after you have done your research (including a visit).
  • Do NOT answer questions - you are "just looking" - which makes you like every other punter who has visited an art gallery. 
  • ONLY talk to a gallery AFTER you have found out most of the answers to the questions you want answers to - by research and by looking for yourself.

KEEP your shortlist under review for a while

  • revise the ranking order
  • keep an eye on their website
  • note how the featured artwork changes
  • note how often exhibitions change
  • note whether they maintain their website so it is always up to date. (You want an internet savvy gallery - not one which pays lip services and puts in very little effort).
  • revise the ranking order after keeping an eye on them
Taking your time will allow you to work out slowly which is the gallery that offers the best fit:
  • they have something to offer you which you want
  • you can contribute art and an excellent track record to date which strengthens their portfolio (without replicating any existing artists) and enables them to present you well to prospective buyers.

OR ALTERNATIVELY - what you need to work on before you are gallery ready......

BUT - before you start - CONSIDER your own business model

What's a gallery going to do for you?

  • Why do you want an art gallery to represent you?
  • What do you expect from a gallery? 
  • How much do you think those benefits will cost? (eg 40-50% commission on every sale for good galleries; less for those who just hang your work but don't market it actively)

What do you have to offer a gallery

  • Do you have a good story to tell? Do you work in series? What does your Artist Statement say?
  • Have you generated a good track record of sales at respectable prices?
  • Do you have repeat buyers?  (In future, if taken on by a gallery, they will need to buy work via the gallery and you will get approx. half the revenue from every sale - unless your agreement states otherwise)
  • Do you have a list of reputable/prestigious exhibitions you have shown in?
  • Have you won prizes or other awards?
  • Are you a member of a noted art society?

Anything else you consider an essential question to have on the checklist? 
Contact me if you have queries or want to suggest questions

You can find more about Art Galleries on this page A Guide to Art Dealers and Galleries on my Art Business Info for Artists website. This includes more pros and cons of having you art handled by a gallery and hints and tips on the different business models and how to approach art galleries.

The next posts in this series will be about 
  • what questions you need to ask a gallery
  • what should an artist do when an art gallery "goes rogue". 

NOTE: The art gallery in Chelsea in the top image is the Jonathan Cooper Gallery in Park Walk in Chelsea. The artwork being exhibited is botanical paintings by Fiona Strickland - one of the Gallery Artists. However, artists should note that there is no information on the page about how to approach the gallery. That's because Jonathan prefers to seek out future artists for himself by attending exhibitions for art competitions and national art societies, at important galleries and art fairs. Which is why being selected for art competitions and national art societies is part of the equation of "getting noticed". That said, one of the other Gallery Artists was recommended by me to the Gallery (after she won a major art prize) - and was taken on. The recommendation was made on the basis of "fit" with the ethos of the gallery's existing complement of artists at that time (see checklist above!)

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