As a gallery owner Suzanne Pretty has had a great deal of experience organizing and hanging exhibits. As an artist she has exhibited her work and won awards in numerous shows. She shares her knowledge of working with galleries here.
Working with Galleries
Galleries: How To Find One, How To Deal With Them
By Guest Writer:
Finding and dealing with galleries and other venues is a very large topic. I hope to touch on a few things that will help you in this quest.
Over the years I have exhibited extensively in shops, galleries, museums and other places. My husband and I have owned a small gallery and frame shop in southern Maine for over nineteen years.
We have curated many exhibits and dealt with many artists. In doing this, we have seen many errors artists make when dealing with us. Here are a few things from my experiences to keep in mind when approaching venues and exhibiting:
- Visit the galleries and their websites to get an idea of what type of work they represent. Is your work compatible with the art they sell? If not, this is probably not the best gallery for your work.
- Make an appointment, don’t just walk in with your work, the gallerist may be involved with other things. Also, this may affect how you are received. Inquire if the gallery is accepting new people. Would it be possible to make an appointment, or mail them information?
- If you do get an appointment, or they are open to you sending information, find out what they are interested in seeing, in what format and how many pieces. Think about what to show and what to leave out. Do not overwhelm them with pieces; it is better to be selective. You may choose to send the work that looks best on a computer screen as opposed to your best work.
- Be prepared. Have quality images, a bio, artist’s statement, resume, web page and other contact information available. Each place and exhibit will request different information and in a different format. Provide the information requested in the format requested and in a timely manner.
- Make sure your contact information – name, address, phone number, email, and web address and everything is clearly labeled. All you efforts will be for nothing if they can not reach you. You would be surprised how often this is forgotten.
- Commission rates will vary with different galleries. Inquire if the work is insured while in the gallery. You may need to carry your own insurance policy for your work. This is required in certain settings, commercial shows, etc. Read the information provided carefully.
- Owners may require that their artists not show with any other venues within a particular distance of their gallery. This may not work for everyone. If the gallery is selling your work this may not be an issue but it can affect existing gallery relations. You need to decide if this is the best venue for your work.
- Do not pull your work from a gallery to sell out of your studio. If you do sell direct, NEVER undercut gallery pricing. Your retail prices should be consistent in all venues, including your studio.
- If you have referrals from the gallery, or the piece was seen in an exhibit, a 20% commission would be reasonable, or if the gallery is in possession of the painting, refer the client to the gallery. Work these issues out with the gallery in advance.
- Meet the schedule the gallery has set up.
- Keep in mind, giving an artist space in a gallery can be a very expensive gamble. Any gallery owner can tell you that demanding and egotistical artists are seldom worth the trouble. There’s a long line of very talented people who would love to have an opportunity to get into an art gallery. When you market your work you are doing business. Be professional.
The gallery option is not for everyone
You need to decide the best approach for you. Galleries have many artists and you will not always be the top priority. There are many considerations and different types of venues that might be suited for your work: museums, craft shows, online sales, fairs, exhibits, open houses and sales from your studio, just to name a few. Check out Call For Entry Lists. This is a good way to find venues from which other opportunities may develop.
Finding a gallery is only one piece of the larger effort of promoting your work. You need to get you work out there: exhibits, competitions, online, magazines, speaking, etc. These all add visibility and new connections. If you get a rejection keep trying. The jurying process is very subjective. Don’t get discouraged and don’t stop working. If you hide your work away in your studio, who will see it?
There is much material written on this and other subjects relating to promoting your work. People are at different points in their careers and have varying needs.
Here are just a few references:
The Artist Survival Manual by Toby Judith Klayman with Cobbett Steinberg
The Business of Art by Lee Caplin
This only scratches the surface but it is a starting point.
Suzanne Pretty co-owned a gallery and framing shop in New Hampshire for many years. She organized and hung many shows as well as exhibiting her work widely.
“My grandmother was a lady’s tailor in London. The seeds of her influence were planted early with a gift of a toy sewing machine and fabrics of assorted patterns and textures.”
After graduating from Massachusetts College of Art with a BA in painting, Suzanne’s work evolved from thick paint and texture into quilted, stuffed and painted pieces and then into tapestry. She did production weaving for a number of years but set this aside as her focus shifted to tapestry. The paper weavings over the last few year are a form of quick sketches, allowing me to work through new ideas and images. These pieces are evolving into woven tapestries.