How to Get in an Art Gallery Without Trying

…1. Make Good saleable art

Galleries like to sell easily saleable things, just like any shop. Most commercial Galleries aren’t really interested in your ground breaking leaf sculpture made out of real leaves, or the conceptual cereal packet art you made this morning in a moment of creative epiphany. No, they want mostly good saleable, well made paintings and drawings on canvases and in frames. Saleable means different things in different Galleries, and varies according to the needs, tastes and whims of the gallery customer who frequent that particular establishment.

2. Be well presented

Many artists (myself included) like to look like artists. We want our dress and demeanor to scream to the world ‘Look at me, I am creative,different, and therefore interesting, deep, with something to say about the world through art’. Of course, to a Gallery Director that sets off the ‘wannabe-represented’ alarm. At best, if you approach a gallery wearing those ‘oh-so-colourful-and-practical-inflatable-artists-pantaloons’ you will receive a courteous smile, feigned interest and a cheery ‘have a nice day’ as you exit the gallery, without the representation you desire, pantaloons deflated.

Gallery Directors really only like to talk to collectors, because they have the money, or to already successful artists because they help them make money. If your sense of style falls into either of those department, you might be able to slip under the radar temporarily. In short, your confident and monied swagger as you sashay into through the Gallery Door will be like a cloaking device for a your true representation seeking intentions.

3. Let the Gallery Director come to you

This is how the cunning trap is laid. By way of an illustration, here is how my wife and I snagged representation at a lovely little art gallery that we’d had our eye on for a while. Actually up till now I’ve been billing this whole thing as some kind of grand jedi-mind trick scheme for bending a Gallery Director to our will, but really, at the time it was just plain old business, and maybe this common sense approach can work for you.

We were returning from a business meeting with a corporate client who wanted to commission us for a series of prints and an original painting for head office. Anyway, we were naturally well dressed for that meeting, well prepared with all our promo materials (still in the car at this stage), and because the meeting was successful we had the requisite swagger as we walked through the gallery doors.

With a fleeting and polite ‘hello’ to the Gallery Director, we walked into the exhibition space itself, and commenced our admiration of the art hanging on the gallery walls. After a little while of course the Gallery Director came to us, to engage us in conversation, and possibly sell us some art. At no time did we give any impression that we would dearly love to be represented by this gallery, however, we did at that point reveal that we were artists, and dropped a keyword or two like ‘business meeting’, ‘commission’ and ‘insert-name-of-mega-corporation-here’, but continued walking round the Gallery space in a nonchalant, totally-not-seeking-representation manner.

This combo of casual-name-dropping and air-of-non-representation was obviously irresistable. Interest had definately been piqued and the Gallery Director asked “What kind of art work do you do?”. This is the where our mini art folios came into play.

Mini art folios are great. You see, because a filofax type personal organiser is a pretty non-threatening and professionial looking thing. These days of course Ipads and smartphones are all the rage, and you could have all your artworks on there, but there’s nothing quite like feeling of flipping through real pages (though I must admit, the Ipad on which I am typing this has a retina display which is a joy to behold and I may be swayed to using that in the future. A smartphone would be a no no though as they feel a bit impersonal and is hard to see the art wen squinting at a tiny screen).

Anyway, back to the story…

The Gallery Director was interested and asked if he could see some of our actual real art, and of course we were happy to oblige as we already had some spectacular examples sitting in the back of our car. Still we gave no impression that we were quite keen to have our art in his gallery.

We paraded the artworks in, then he made some grunts of approval and said ‘I think I could sell this, have you got any more?’. ‘of course’ we said, ‘how many do you need?’.

Still we kept our cool, even though our hearts were full to overflowing at the thought of being represented by a gallery which we thought of at the time as being one of the best on the coast. That day we agreed to supply 6 artworks, and after some of them sold we went on to have a couple of exhibitions there too.

So why did our approach work? How could we break the golden rule of never walking into a gallery seeking representation, and walk out of the gallery as a represented artist?

Here’s they key points I think made the difference…

 

How to Get in an Art Gallery Without Trying

 

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