How not to approach a gallery – and what to do instead
A reader writes:
What is the best way to approach a gallery or outlet you are interested in?
I’m going to answer this question by first sharing an example of what not to do, and then I’ll look at how this approach could be tweaked to improve their chances of a favourable response. This advice applies whether you are looking to exhibit work in a gallery or stock work in a gallery store or other retail space.
I received these two emails from the same person, and they are reproduced verbatim below.
I am a practising artist and would like to know to procedure to exhibit at the Gallery.
I am thinking I would like to book the gallery for next year 2019
Thanking you and awaiting a favourable reply
And then a few minutes later:
I had just sent a query earlier!!
I just read that you are a curated space and do not accept submissions
My question is how can one get to exhibit at the gallery
Do artists have to submit a portfolio/resume??or does the artist have to become a member of the gallery??
Please let me know??
Aside from my personal dislike of double exclamation and question marks (why are you yelling at me when you should be trying to win me over?), the main thing that stood out was that it was clear the writer had no connection with me or my gallery. There was nothing to indicate they had ever set foot in my space, let alone met me. They didn’t understand how my gallery worked, and didn’t offer up any information about how their work might be a good fit.
Before approaching any gallery, an artist needs to do their research. It will save both parties a lot of time if you take a strategic approach, contacting only those galleries that you think are a good fit, rather than sending out generic emails like this to every gallery you find on Google.
I want to know why you want to work with my gallery in particular – does your medium or theme fit my gallery’s philosophy? Has one of your favourite artists shown here? Do you share in my gallery’s vision and mission? Any one of these things would let me know that you are genuinely interested in working with me, rather than any gallery that will have you. I get a lot of approaches from artists, and I’d rather spend my time with those who share my outlook and are excited about the prospect of working with me.
The second thing that stood out in these emails was that the artist gave me no information about themselves or their arts practice. If this exchange was going to progress, I would have to do all the work of asking questions, looking them up online, explaining things to them – and honestly, as a busy small business owner this is not something I am going to spend my time doing. When you approach a gallery, you need to make it easy for them to say yes.
Remember when you approach a gallery you are trying to sell yourself to them. You wouldn’t turn up for a job interview without having researched the company, so why approach a gallery without the same level of care – this is after all a business relationship you are trying to establish. Just as with an interview, you need to present your best self to the gallery, which doesn’t mean putting on a suit, but it does mean being prepared and making it as easy as possible for them to work with you.
I have more tips about how to put together an exhibition proposal here.