Thursday, January 8, 2015

Gallery Hunting is Hard Work

I am an artist. And some would say you aren't a professional until you sell regularly. Others would say that the moment you become professional you aren't really an artist. TheWife would say: call yourself whatever you want as long as you cover your share of the expenses!

[Edit: I would never say that, and he knows it - TheWife]

While I'm talking about differences of opinion in the art world, let's talk about galleries. Some people say that you aren't an artist of note if you aren't in a gallery. Some people say that a gallery is often a waste of an artist's time and that they can manage their own marketing and exposure.

Let me tell you the path I chose. First off, an artist is anyone who draws, paints, sings, writes, dances, snaps, plays an instrument, or has sex in a particularly graceful way. Period. Make money or don't. Actually, don't make money on that sex part. I think that might be illegal. But, by all means, do it with all the grace you can muster!

I think that a gallery is better than not. At least, it has been for me. The reason is two-fold. I have been in a gallery and admittedly they did not do much marketing for me. But hopefully you can get into a space that does some work for the artists. They hold shows and have extensive mailing lists and hold regular events.

The other, bigger reason that I like being in a gallery is that they did provide a nice venue for my art shows and the place give me some credibility. I have been paintings for many years. There are a lot of questions that I get repeatedly. But, perhaps the most asked question is "Where can I see some of your work?"

I could say, "check out my website." And I often do. But, this often brings about a look of sadness on the part of the listener. Nothing sells a piece of art like actually being in its presence. Being able to recommend my gallery to a client has made a big difference in my sales over the years.

I haven't been in a gallery for some time now, and I can really tell a difference. So, in the past month I have begun hunting for gallery representation. Which leads me to the point of this blog post.

Gallery Hunting is Hard Work!

If you read posts on how to submit work to a gallery you will get a list that's longer than Cher's wig hair. The truth is. the list is short. Very short.

1. Find a gallery that sells work similar to yours.
2. Send them your portfolio

Already I can hear people typing responses. "You can't just send unsolicited stuff to a gallery!" I see this all the time. I've heard it a lot. Hell, I even know it to be true. The gallery I was in was through a personal referral.

But the galleries don't know this! I have poured through dozens of galleries, partcularly in New York because I think it's time to spread my wings. So, I look through gobs and gobs of gallery sites. And most of them do not sell my sort of work. You've seen my work, fellow adventurers. That is some niche shit!

But, you gotta look through them all anyway. And then I find one. I find a gallery that sells figurative work. And not just old people sailing, or a guy shooting a tiger. Real figurative works! I get excited. I get psyched. I've been looking through gallery sites for approximately 73 days and nights. And then I find one that might be a match! It's like deciding you're going to be single your whole life, buying 7 cats and then meeting that special person while you're ordering take out Chinese food. Magical!

I call, because you don't just send your stuff in. I want to talk to someone, tell them how much I love their gallery, see if they are having any events, maybe ask about submission rules. I pick up the phone, call the gallery and get a very pleasant person on the other end. They are always pleasant.

"Hello," I say. And then, I do what I do! By the end of our conversation we are laughing like old friends. And then I ask about submitting work. No matter how much laughter there is, or how much they love me, or if I know their third cousin Patrick from an event I went to in Boise, I get the same answer.

"Great. Just send your portfolio to a guy named John. He's at John@I' He looks at all submissions. And he only does it in whatever month is 8 months from now. What month is it?"


"Great, He'll look at it in...June...July...August...August! When I see him I'll tell him that joke you told me. That was hilarious!"

And that is it. Same result. Every time. Guaranteed.

I wonder if they can tell I'm sitting in my underwear when I call. Maybe I snort when I laugh. I don't know. Maybe every portfolio should be sent with a $100 gift card or a photo of the wardrobe malfunction of the week.

Truth is, even as we speak, John might be finally looking through my portfolio and getting ready to call me. Maybe this is working. Maybe I'm going about it exactly right. But, don't believe for even a second that this is easy-peasy.

Has your gallery hunting gone easier? Worse? We'd love to hear your experiences.


  1. Sad to see NO comments. Loved your take on gallery hunting so I'll hit 'notify' in case someone has a brilliant idea. I should be hunting for galleries 'cuz the one's locally aren't doing much for me in the way of sales.

  2. Yeah. That's my issue too, Sue. Just need to expand my wings a little.