When most artists think of selling their work, they think of galleries. Despite the fact that they will take up to fifty percent of your profit, it feels far more prestigious and professional than selling on the street or over the internet. However, for many artists too used to rejection it can seem an illusory task. If you feel like you’re always on the outside looking in, the chances are that it is your approach that is wrong, not your work.
Research galleries first
The first step is research to find galleries most likely to accept your work. Art fairs are excellent for this. Each gallery has a different stand where you can admire a selection of the work they sell. You can talk with the owners about your own work and make valuable contacts
Another option is to research galleries on the internet. Most galleries will have websites, and the reach of the internet means that you may find opportunities in foreign galleries that specialize in art from other cultures. Be cautious of anyone willing to accept your work without seeing it first though.
Make a shortlist of ten galleries
Out of the thousands of galleries worldwide, why only ten? Surely it is better to buy a large mailing list and apply to as many as possible to increase your chances? If you’re considering that route, just ask yourself how many unsolicited spam emails you reply to. If an email is not targeted at you and your needs, you won’t take any interest; the same is true in applying to galleries.
Your best chance of being accepted is to focus yourself on the ten galleries you are most likely to get into. Visit the galleries. Get to know who makes the decisions there and their personal tastes. What kind of people are buying there? You need to find as much out as much as possible about each gallery in order to carefully tailor your application for the maximum chance of acceptance.
Create a professionally designed and printed mailer
Your next step is to create your mailer: a small brochure of your work. It is well worth paying a professional designer if you do not have the skills to do it yourself. It should be clean and elegant and include: a small selection of your work; your artistic statement; a brief biography; and of course contact details. Visit your local printers and get them to do a fairly small print run of less than a hundred
Send the mailer off to the galleries with a personalized introductory letter
If you’ve researched the gallery well enough you should be able to write an introductory letter that addresses someone by name (no “dear sir/madam”) and mentions any previous contact with them. Send the letter with your printed mailer and include a business card too if you have one.
The final step is to sit back and wait. Do not expect an immediate reply, but if no-one has got back to you within two weeks it is fine to give them a call to check they received it. If you are asked to visit them to discuss things further, be prepared for a shock. The gallery will usually take around fifty percent of the sale price, and you will normally be asked to frame your own work. This can be expensive, but is well worth getting done professionally.
Rejected by all ten galleries? Simply go through the process with another ten, making sure to take as much care as the first time. Hopefully you will have gained some experience that will serve you better the second time around. Persevere. If you wish to apply to the same gallery you should wait at least six months before doing so.
How to keep the ball rolling
You should always be prudent when dealing with galleries, since a good relationship with one can last a lifetime. The best advice is to get on friendly terms with all the people who work there. Do not resent the fact that they are making money out of your work, you should be happy about it. Do not argue with them about price or tell them they are doing their job wrong. Remember that they are professionals, and that any hassle you cause them costs them time and money. Finally, drop by occasionally to see how everything is going. Be casual and friendly, take their advice with grace, and you should be fine.