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Advice From a Gallery Manager

by Scott Jones on 12/29/2009 12:18:09 PM

The following blog post is by Scott Jones, manager of Legacy Gallery, one of the top fine art galleries in the country with locations in Scottsdale and Jackson WY.

I am on a flight back from our Holiday Small Works Show in Scottsdale. Laptop open and thinking to myself, "Why write an article for FineArtViews?"  Not sure I have a good answer. I will admit that I do read every article, and I have learned a thing or two or three along the way about the art market and the artists who drive it.

Maybe writing this boils down to wanting to express some admiration and appreciation for artists, who despite all odds, continue to pursue their artistic passions and talents. I am an art addict. I admit it. I have been since I bought my first painting at the age of 16. I was pretty talented in High School and College ? won some good awards and even had one of my paintings used as the logo for the ABC television affiliate's evening news for a year. But I never considered a career as an artist. Not once.

I always thought I had a much better chance of success and a more secure future in the business world. Art did continue as my only real passion outside of my work. Not much time to create art ? but I have always found the time to study artists' work and the market, attend gallery shows and museum exhibitions, and occasionally add to my own collection. I told my four daughters when they were very young that they would know I was retired when I was in Jackson Hole selling art. Fortunately for me that opportunity came much sooner than I had anticipated, and my favorite gallery became my employer. How great is that!?

I get the privilege of watching "normal" people daily respond to the type of artwork that we represent. They don't need to be told that it is art ? that is readily apparent to all who see it. We don't sell art ? the art sells itself. Our role is a supportive role and can be defined by how effective we are in these three areas:

Proper presentation -- beautiful galleries with proper lighting and viewing space located in top art markets. Maybe I should also say appropriate art markets for the art we carry.

Effective advertising and promotion targeted at a great client list and to finding new collectors -- magazine ads and features, catalogs, websites, emails and other electronic media.

Building value ? yes, I believe the gallery's endorsement and our experienced sales staff's efforts adds confidence in the artist's potential, which in turn, can generate sales momentum and drive prices upwards. Collectors want to see values increase over time. Our artists also benefit by being associated with the other highly recognized artists we represent.

Let me weigh in on a couple of topics that I have seen discussed on FineArtViews. I will first mention that I found a lot to agree with in two articles by Lori Woodward regarding Galleries. See her posts "The Benefits of Gallery Representation" and "Why Galleries Rock".

How to approach a gallery? I do prefer the first contact to be by email (through our website) with a couple of images and a link to the artist's website. Let me put some perspective on what you are up against as far as other artists' submissions. Since creating our new website over a year ago, we have been fortunate to average over 100 artist submissions a month. Most of these submissions come through the website. Others come directly through email. Still others are by mailed portfolio. I do look at them all. A couple of tips:

Don't contact the gallery the week of a show. I am always surprised how many submissions I get on the day before or the day of a major show. Get on the gallery website and look at the show schedule. Time your inquiries appropriately and your submission will get more attention. Avoid peak-selling periods as well. If you contact me during the Fall Arts Festival in Jackson, it will likely be several weeks before I will have the opportunity to take a look.

Please take the initiative to critique your own artwork and how it compares to the artistic styles and themes we represent. Legacy is primarily a traditional representational western gallery. It continues to surprise me the number of artists who contact us with artwork and portfolios that have nothing to do with these representational themes. Tropical fish and abstracts are not going to find a place at Legacy (yesterday's last two submissions).

Don't tell me that your work is better than the artists we currently represent. I am shocked by the number of artists who make that claim ? even to the point of specifically calling out particular artists in the gallery who they "just know" they are better than. If an artist's work is in our gallery, you can be confident that we like the artwork and have had some success with it. Don't put me on the defensive -- much better to approach me with the honor that it would be to hang with our other talented artists.

Don't drop into the gallery with artwork under your arms, and expect an audience. While I usually try to drop what I am doing and take a look, I don't believe this sets a good first impression. Rather it sets up some reluctance on my part that your artwork is going to have to overcome. If you call and ask for an appointment, I am going to want to see some examples of your artwork before I commit to a time.

Have a website and keep it updated. I am surprised how out of date the majority of websites are. I don't wait for artists to come to us. I spend a lot of time looking at artists. Looking back at the past year, we have brought on artists that I have found through the Oil Painters of America National Exhibition, Ducks Unlimited Sponsored Artists (thanks Google), and other competitions like the Raymar Art Fine Art Competition and the FineArtViews Painting Competition.  I found two artists on links from other artists' websites and blogs. I have a list of over 60 artists I watch and the list is growing. I routinely visit their websites and blogs. I am surprised how infrequently some of these artists update their new work. These are all artists whom I feel have potential so I watch for new works and continued progression and consistency. It is frustrating to me to see a website or blog that goes weeks and weeks or months or more with no updates. Your collectors will feel the same way ? I always did. Timing is everything. I may not have an opportunity today ? but that door may open for a variety of reasons in the future.

Thanks again and I wish you all the best with your art.



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Related Posts:

12 Steps to Get Your Artwork Noticed by Galleries

Art Galleries: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Negotiating with Art Galleries

Gallery Representation

Negotiating With Galleries - Part 3

The Benefits of Gallery Representation

Why Galleries Rock

Negotiating with Art Galleries - Part 2


Topics: Art Business | Gallery/Artist Relationship 

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 91 Comments

Carol Schmauder
via fineartviews.com
I have dealt with galleries off and on over the years but am now seriously trying to build a business with my art. I found the advise in this article priceless. It is important to know how gallery owners want you to approach them. Thank yu for the great advise.

Jan Blencowe
via fineartviews.com
Scott,

Thanks for a great article. I am delighted and very encouraged to know that you and hopefully other galleries are actually searching the web actively looking for new artists to represent.

There is nothing better than having a gallery find your work and contact you for possible representation.

As an artist it's actually a relief to know that while I am looking for galleries they may also be looking for me. That happy thought will uplift me through some of the more discouraging days that may come my way.

Robin Roberts
via clintwatson.net
Scott,

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. While I am not currently producing enough work to really be looking for a gallery, it's nice to soak some of this in for whenever the time might be right. It is also good to know that galleries are actively searching and that Fine Art Views is one of your hot spots. Maybe one of these days I will join. Thanks again.

RR

Monte Wilson
via clintwatson.net
Scott,

Wonderful article and great advice! Thanks for taking the time to share your insight with us.

David M. Kessler
via fineartviews.com
Mr. Jones,

Thank you so much for a very informative article. It helps artists like me very much to get "inside" information from a gallery professional. I did not know that artists were "followed" by gallerists. I guess I never gave any thought to that idea - so thanks for that information. I agree it is extremely important to make sure your artwork is a fit with the gallery prior to submitting your work - that way the artist is not wasting his/her time or that of the gallerist's. That point, along with determining the right city that you want to exhibit in, are critical to an artist's success in a gallery.

Kathy Chin
via fineartviews.com
Hi Scott,

Thanks for the good tips on approaching a gallery. Many of those tips are good common sense, but am really surprised that some artists would stoop to pumping themselves up by putting others down...talk about low!
You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned folks not updating their website and/or blog. Okay, guilty as charged!!!Duh!!! What was I thinking? I'll take my 30 lashes, but also make a point to get off my ^*$$ and get to work. Thanks!

Donald Smith
via fineartviews.com
Scott,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts! It's always nice to read the comments from someone who is working in a top end gallery. You shared some very good and common sense suggestions.

Donald


Lori Woodward
via clintwatson.net
Thanks Scott for taking the time to share this important information with FAV readers/artists. Oh, and thanks for reading FAV blogs ;-)


Mark Yearwood
via clintwatson.net
Thanks for the advice, Scott.
I work hard at keeping my website and blog fresh with new work. The first thing I do when finishing a new piece is photograph and upload to the websites. I visit many sites as well and lose interest if they are stale, so I know collectors will do the same.

It's nice to know galleries are on the lookout for new work.

Michael Cardosa
via fineartviews.com
Dear Scott,

Thank you!

I've been in business a long time and in general, I never tire of hearing of the workings of businesses in which I have an interest.

However, in this case, I absolutely appreciate you taking the time to describe the best process to approach a gallery for representation and how to keep works fresh because you never know who might be interested and watching. Great advice and thank you again.

Michael

Fay Terry
via fineartviews.com
How interesting to think that a gallery owner actually looks for artists online. I never really thought about it, but it makes sense.
This is a very helpful article and Scott is obviously a person who wants to help artists.
Fay

Bruce Ulrich
via fineartviews.com
Thank you for the very useful advice.

Kyle V Thomas
via fineartviews.com
Scott,

First off, it's great to hear that you are in the business because you love art. I can't imagine why anyone working for a gallery wouldn't love art, but I have wondered that about many gallery reps I've talked to.
Thank you for the article. It is helpful to hear from people in the business. I hadn't thought about timing when submitting work. It makes very practical sense though.
Thank you for advocating art and artists. And thank you for looking for us too.


Peggy Guichu
via fineartviews.com
Thank you so much for the resourceful information. This comes to me in a timely manner. I am always nervous about approaching a galleries and though others have taken their time to give good advice on how to do it properly, coming from someone who makes the decisions is such a help.

I'm also encouraged to hear that you and other gallery owners are looking. With the economy as it is, I know I have wondered if it's worth the effort to submit. Thanks for taking your time. I know I appreciate it very much.

Judith Monroe
via fineartviews.com
It's good to hear from another gallery perspective. I've been looking more and more at the benefits of galleries and how finding more representation will help me do what I really want to do: create! I'm learning that there are some differing thoughts from different gallerists so it's good to remember that each gallery is a bit of a country unto itself...

Claudia L Brookes
via fineartviews.com
Wow--I remember that, when I was just launching my career as an artist, my husband I visited Jackson Hole and visited galleries there. The Legacy Gallery became my ideal gallery for when I "was ready," and it still is my ideal for a gallery that would represent my animal and western landscape art. Great artists, great presentation, great marketing. Thanks for the good advice, Scott.

Margo
via fineartviews.com
Clint, please thank Scott Jones for his enlightening article. While I wouldn't consider my art to be traditional western, I still got a tremendous amount of good information out of this article.

R Yvonne Colclasure
via fineartviews.com
Mr. Jones, I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I have often wondered how one would go about properly approaching a gallery. I have heard a lot of horror stories about the wrong way, but not real clear directions on the right way. When I feel I am ready to take that step I will be able to take it with a lot more confindence, thanks to you.

Max Hulse
via fineartviews.com
Like Scott, I read these daily postings.
This is perhaps the best one I've ever
read here. Good stuff!!

Tom Quinn
via fineartviews.com
Dear Scott,
I'm glad to hear from a gallery owner how you and your colleagues DO NOT want us artists to make our first contact. I'd like to hear more about DOs then DON'Ts.
Some gallery owners are artists themselves, so, fortunately, they have some conception of how intimidating it is for artists to try to promote their work (and how much we dearly wish we could hire someone else to do it). The last thing I want to be is annoying or intrusive. Unfortunately, galleries don't give us much choice. If I contact a gallery by phone, I'm a telemarketer. If I approach them in person, I'm, a door-to-door salesman. If I contact them by e-mail, I'm a spammer, and if I contact them by snail-mail, I'm a junk mailer. I'm forced to be one of the four kinds of people I hate the most.
I would never enter a gallery with samples under my arm like some brush salesman, and I would never compare the work of another artist in the gallery unfavorably to my own. There have been times in the past when I've been critical of the work of other artists in the gallery, but I've learned since then what a mistake that can be (sometimes gallery owners show the work of their friends and relatives, who they can't say no to).
Asking gallery owners if they'd like to show my work is very much like asking someone on a date. I'm putting them on the spot, backing them into an uncomfortable position. If a woman doesn't want to date me, she won't say "No -- because I don't like you" or "I don't date guys like you". She feels she has to struggle to be tactful, to spin the rejection so it doesn't sound like one. In other words, she's pretending it isn't personal, even though rejection by definition ALWAYS is.
If a gallery owner turns down my work, there's only one reason why. It's because he or she simply doesn't like it. You can say that we artists need to develop a thicker skin so we dare to risk rejection more often, but my reply is that an honest rejection is better than sugar-coating and spin. Please don't say, "It's not quite what we're looking for". That's code for "It's not good enough for us". Please don't say, "I like your work personally, but it's not the kind we show in this gallery". That's like turning down a date by saying, "I like you, but not in that way".
If I could count on every gallery owner to say something honest like, "Thank you for considering us, but your work isn't up to our standards" I wouldn't be so nervous about contacting them. Usually, that's what the rejection really means anyway. If that sounds too cruel, you could say "Thank you for considering us, but this isn't my taste in art". I could accept that.
If I ran a gallery, and someone brought in very well-painted pictures of flowers and big-eyed children, I would say, "These are very well done, but they're too sentimental". If someone brought in beautifully painted pictures of sailboats in a harbor or an old barn, I would say "These are very well done, but they're too familiar and conventional." If someone brought in pictures that were surprising and refreshing, and really had something to say, but were poorly painted, I'd say "You've got some great ideas. If you improve your painting skills, your pictures could be great for our gallery".
Rejection is hard enough without the spin. Remember, rejection is ALWAYS personal, so there's no point in spinning or sugar-coating it.
I would really appreciate it if every art gallery had a page on its web site for artists who wish to show there. It should contain explicit instructions on how the gallery would like to be contacted, what materials the artists should present, and some kind of statement about the gallery's guidelines and standards (e.g., no work of a religious nature, no abstract work, nothing cartoonish). It should remind artists that all galleries attract more artists than buyers, and that they should expect to be rejected, but that the gallery does appreciate them for trying. Thanks for reading my thoughts, Scott, and I hope I've given you some ideas.
Tom




Esther J. Williams
via clintwatson.net
Hello Scott, this was well worth your time. You have just opened up the eyes of many artists on becoming a better candidate for a gallery. I am extremely thankful that you gave us such helpful tips. Just the mere knowledge of gallery owners are online looking at our art websites makes me want to paint those large panoramic landscapes and seascapes. I was thinking of doing the larger canvases for a long time, but didn't have a place to hang them, most of the gallery people I know want smaller pieces so they can hang more. My plan for 2010 includes painting on these 5 foot wide canvases I have stored for 7 years now. Thanks to you, I now feel once they are done, I will at least have an online audience. Just that thought is giving me stagefright!

Roderik Mayne
via fineartviews.com
Excellent advice. It is great that you are helping artists to approach gallery owners in an appropriate way; not from some egotistical viewpoint, but from a practical one of giving us the best chance of being represented. We (I) are often intimidated by galleries, but it is everyones interest to co-operated because we are all in the same business. That being said, there are certain practices that seem to be intended to prey on artists and their sometimes desperate need to get into a gallery.

Nancy Lloyd
via fineartviews.com
Thank you for sharing your advice from a gallery manger's perspective! I have a small website and have also been showing my work in a wonderful local gallery for the past ten years. A few years ago my gallery had a website but for the past two years they have had no website. The plan was for the website to come down and be rebuilt with photos of all the work in the gallery but somehow that idea was never completed. I have asked the owners to please put up some sort of a website but they have decided that they don't need a website! They tell me that art is not sold by a website and that it is very expensive to maintain a proper website. Admittedly, the gallery does have a good local following and they do have an email list that they utilize to announce shows and special events. What can I say to the gallery owners that might cause them to reconsider and put up a website? Thank you for your thoughts!

Lori Woodward
via clintwatson.net
Nancy, I think FASO offers a gallery website option that costs around $75/month. It lets the owners of the site update with the same kind of menu... Clint knows more about it of course.

Nancy Lloyd
via clintwatson.net
Thanks Lori! I will try to explore that option. I would also love to have some solid arguments as to why the gallery needs a website. It seems like a website would be a great marketing tool for a gallery! For me, as an artist, I think it gives me credibility to be able to send a prospective collector to a gallery website.

Lori Woodward
via clintwatson.net
Nancy, these days... a gallery not having a website is like them not having a telephone. It's expected.

Unless the gallery is in a resort area where it gets tons of foot traffic, I can't see how they can get by without a website.


R Yvonne Colclasure
via clintwatson.net
This comment is in response to Tom Quinn. Thank you Tom for some great insight. It is usually the artist who is walking on eggs to appease a gallery. I appreciate your validation of what the artist has a right to expect. After all, we are human beings and usually more vulnerable than we want to be in this situation, no matter how hard we have practiced being "thick-skinned".

R Yvonne Colclasure
via clintwatson.net
Hi Nancy. If your gallery doesn't have a website, how will they acquire buyers who don't happen to be on the email list and probably aren't likely to be in that location? Say I wanted to purchase a painting you had hanging, but had no way of contacting them. I guess I wouldn't even know I wanted to purchase it if I were unable to see what they had hanging in the gallery. A web site would have been a convenient way to check out the inventory. I hope they will come around to see it is a valuable tool and with FASO certainly easy and not that expensive.

Joanne Benson
via fineartviews.com
Hi Scott,
Thanks for all your helpful advice. I guess I'll have to update my blog more frequently as I don't take the time to photograph and update as often as I should. It is good to get tips on how to approach galleries, etc. It was also nice to hear that galleries search for work online as well! It gives me a little more incentive to keep up to date! Joanne

Marsha Savage
via clintwatson.net
This has been a wonderful article to read, and the comments along with it. It is nice when as an artist I get to read what a gallery expects and how they wish to be approached.

I was also interested in the comment made by Nancy about her gallery that did not have a web site at this time. It sounds like a good idea for FASO to have a plan for a gallery web site. I will mention this to my gallery in a small tourist town. They have a good following also, and an e-mail list as she said. But, to bring in new clients, it would make sense to have a wonderful web site that was updated regularly.

And, thank to Scott for pointing out that we must keep our own personal web sites and blogs updated more regularly. I seem to only get it done about every six months -- and I realize that is not enough. I will do better. I am actually in the process of removing older work and refreshing the site with new work. So, I do know it should be done and will strive to do it more often.

It is also nice to hear that a gallery such as Legacy also looks online at artists and has them on a watch list.

Again, great advice and very timely.
Marsha

Sharon Weaver
via fineartviews.com
I was talking to an artist who has a website she can't update. How sad. One of the most important assets of my FASO website is how easy it is to add images, change the title page, even the layout and colors. I will update things at least once a week so when a repeat client comes back it looks different and the newest work is right up front. How will they find the new work otherwise.

monte wilson
via clintwatson.net
Amen Sharon! That's one of the reasons I love my FASO site. Clint makes it so easy for us.

Nancy Lloyd
via clintwatson.net
In response to Yvonne's comments, I absolutely agree with you! The challenge is that the gallery owners happen to believe that websites do not sell paintings. So, the question might be..........do gallery websites really sell paintings?

Terry Rafferty
via fineartviews.com
As someone else already said, this is one of the best posts I've read here - thank you so much Scott, and to everyone for their thoughtful responses. I do feel I have to respond to some of Tom Quinn's comments: I hear you, and rejection does feel personal, but I don't agree with you: It isn't Always personal; excellent work can be rejected for many reasons, including all the ones Scott gave. Having a chip on your shoulder isn't a good way to start a relationship (dating or business!). Scott gave very specific ideas on how to approach a gallery, Lori Woodward has, and Alyson Stanfield in her book "I'd Rather Be in the Studio" does. None of them should make an artist feel like a telemarketer, spammer, etc. Its a matter of being considerate of the gallery's time and energy and of taking the time to evaluate a gallery before approaching it so you aren't wasting their time or yours. Finally, I do like your suggestion that galleries include a webpage giving artists guidelines for submissions; that would benefit both sides nicely!

David M. Kessler
via clintwatson.net
Nearly all good, professional galleries have "Artist Submission" guidelines on their websites. I have never submitted to one that did not. The galleries prefer different formats for submittals, some prefer email and some snail mail. If you don't see this information on the webiste of a gallery you are considering, you may want to consider others that provide the information.

monte wilson
via clintwatson.net
I agree whole heartedly with you Terry. Lori's insight is wonderful and Alison's book is a must have for those who don't. I also suggest people read the book "Starving to Successful" by J. Jason Horejs (Owner of Xanadu gallery in Scottsdale Arizona) fabulous insight and info on getting into galleries....

Linda Wilder
via fineartviews.com
Thanks Scott for a very informative article. I am definately interested in a high end gallery to represent me.( however nervous and intimidated I may be).I live in Calgary, and there are 4-5 galleries I'm interested in approaching. I'd like to know if it is ethical for me to to contact them at the same time or one by one? I'm not sure if gallery owers/managers talk amongst themseves about artists that approach them.

Carole Rodrigue
via fineartviews.com
I'm guilty as charged with not updating my website, or keeping up with my blog this year. I am contemplating on a site change, still, I should update my site until I make my decision.

Thanks so much for the welcome advice Scott. I've read so many articles on approaching galleries, but yours is simple and sensible. I am planning on beginning to submit my still lifes to galleries in 2010, so this article is very timely. Thanks again for making us aware about the view from the other side!

Kathryn Clark
via fineartviews.com
Thank you for your straight forward, almost blunt comments about professional practices for artists! It's effective coming from a gallery owner. Yes, it's good for artists to get a sense of the competition out there, that we should be businesslike, and also realize that a professional artist is a wholesale supplier for the gallery and must continually create new art work (inventory).

Lee McVey
via fineartviews.com
I was very pleased to read Scott Jones's article. It's very helpful when gallery owners let artists know what they want from artist submissions through articles such as this, or books such as Xanadu Gallery's Jason Horejs's "Starving to Successful."
Art marketing coach programs such as Aletta de Wal's Artist Career Training Program(http://artistcareertraining.com) or Alyson Stanfield's Art Biz Coach blogs and more(http://artbizcoach.com)are priceless, but it also helps to hear their lessons confirmed and repeated by a gallery owner. It was great to hear galleries have artists they watch.

Clint, I'd love to read more articles of this nature.

Lee McVey
via fineartviews.com
I've just now remembered Jason Horejs's preferred approach from artists is to have the artist come in with a portfolio rather than check submission guidelines or call. I've heard other gallery owners in panel discussions prefer this way too. But mostly I've heard gallerists want artists to follow submission guidelines. Sometimes it seems like a catch 22. Irritating the gallerist if the artist calls first but that's not the way they want to be approached, --even though a call may be the only way to find out how they do want to be approached. To me the preferred way would not be a cold call with portfolio in hand. It seems the artist also needs a little intuition and definitely needs to do sufficient research on the gallery before hand.

Tom Quinn
via clintwatson.net
Now that I've re-read Scott's column, I see that he did specify how he, at least, prefers artists to contact a gallery: start with an e-mail sent through their web site, and after they have looked at YOUR web site and asked for materials, send them by mail. The first time I read it, all I saw were the complaints about artists bringing in their work under their arms or boasting that their work is better than the other artists.
If I seem to have a chip on my shoulder, as Terry Rafferty says, it may be because I started contacting galleries before any of us had e-mail or web sites. The most common way we contacted galleries was by walking in and asking to see the manager, usually with a portfolio under our arm. Since galleries even then averaged about 100 artists a month, I could understand their annoyance, just as I could understand how beautiful women are annoyed at constantly being hit on by pushy men. But we didn't have many alternatives. We had to take our rejection in person, and it wasn't pretty.
There was always the mail, but that meant having to send slides, which some of you may remember were a lot more expensive than CDs. The "self-addressed stamped envelope" was another expense, and it made us dread opening our mailboxes because we knew what it meant when we got it back.
I assure you that, no matter how much I dread talking to gallery owners, I never have a chip on my shoulder when I meet them in person. I'm always cordial, even when they are not. One time, an owner asked me that always-difficult question, "What kind of art do you do?" and I had to grope for a short answer. The best word I could think of was "surreal", and she responded by clicking her tongue and rolling her eyes. Whether or not she could tell I noticed that, I have no idea.
Like most artists, I'd rather be painting than promoting my work, but I really don't mind visiting galleries (I want to see the art as much as anyone) and talking to the people in charge. What I mostly hate is being reduced to the position of solicitor. If I were famous, the galleries would solicit ME. Some galleries ONLY work that way; others will take inquiries from artists, but they will only consider those whose names are familiar to them. In other words, if you're not so famous that the dealer has heard of you, how can your work be any good?
Working through e-mail and web sites is a lot less stressful than the old days of slides and portfolios. Today, galleries don't have to return anything in the mail or read a painful rejection letter. Often galleries simply respond by not responding at all. I personally don't like that -- it's passive-aggressive -- but it's arguably more tactful than it used to be.
I realize that my earlier comment sounded overly querulous. I don't want to demonize gallery owners, because I do understand what they go through. The closest I came to being in their position was when I curated a month-long group show in a rented space. It was only open to the artists I invited, and there was little enough wall space once the show was hung. But on the day of the opening, and for well over a week thereafter, amateur artists brought in artwork for the show. Most of them were courteous, and I hated to turn them away, but some were downright insistent. They seemed to believe they had an inalienable right to show in our "gallery".
If one of those artists had brought in something brilliant, I would have been annoyed at his or her arrogance, but I would have found a space for it. The fact is that only a small amount of the unsolicited art even rose to the level of low mediocrity. The rest was simply awful, and that was why I rejected it.
Terry Rafferty's says that rejection "isn't always personal; excellent work can be rejected for many reasons". Gallery owners may reject work that is well done -- even I said before that I would reject well-done paintings if they were trite or sentimental -- but they would never reject art that they happened to like. To go back to the dating metaphor, in my dating days I sometimes got asked on dates, and I usually accepted them. When I turned them down, it was always because I didn't like that particular woman, and I didn't want to go on a date with her. I'd feel cruel rejecting her, and hypocritical for not being more honest about it. The reasons were ALWAYS personal, and I had to learn to accept that reality whenever I was the one asking for a date.
The bottom line is that gallery owners accept our work if they like it, and reject it if they don't (but they wouldn't dare TELL us they don't like it). The only way we can sell our work to people who don't like it is if we become famous. Then galleries will show our work and people will pay high prices for it whether they like it or not. Like everyone else, I'd love to be rich and famous, but then I'd miss the days when the only people who showed my work and bought it were those who liked it.




Terry Krysak
via clintwatson.net
This is the kind of advice all artists wanting to be represented by a gallery should read and follow.

It is great that this kind of information is out there which will make it easier for gallery owners to go through the submissions that they get.

Hope you get more gallery owners to write on the same subject.

Claudia L Brookes
via clintwatson.net
Clint, I think you can see by the response to Scott Jones' blog about how much interest there is from us artists about "approaching galleries," and it would be very useful to have more of this information from the gallerist's perspective. You have provided information in the past, and a link to Xanadu Gallery's "Starving to Successful" book (a very useful book, by the way), but there are thousands of galleries and gallery owners out there and, one would assume, many different ways of curating what they show in their galleries. Bringing artists tips from other top-tier national galleriests on submitting their work effectively would be a great start, even though many of us will end up showing our work in more local or regionally oriented galleries.

Dorian Vincent Scotti
via fineartviews.com
Hi Scott,
I enjoyed your piece for FASO, a few chuckles and a lot of good advice for the professional fine artist. It sounds like a number of the artists you've dealt with need to read Emily Post, as well as Paul Dorrell!
I confess to being guilty of one of the faux pas you mentioned. While initially seeking representation in Santa Fe, I visited a gallery I thought would be an appropriate venue for my work. When I attempted to leave a portfolio the gallery owner yelled at me (a good sign we wouldn't work well together) "he was mounting an exhibit" and wouldn't have time to look at my work. In my own defense, I had visited the gallery's web site. Unfortunately, their exhibit schedule listed there was from the previous year - so I had no way of knowing how bad my timing was beforehand. Also, they had no submission guidelines.
I know a number of artists here who fail to keep the sites up-to-date and I wonder why they even have a site if they're not going to use it intelligently. But, for a gallery? I am amazed at how many are guilty of this as well - especially given how much of the art market here is driven by collectors from out of town (who do, in fact, research galleries online before there visit to SF).
I hope you will write more for FASO in the future.
Warm regards,
Dorian



Lori Woodward
via clintwatson.net
Claudia, you make a very good point about there being thousands of galleries out there.

I have at least 2 friends who make over $100,000/yr working with regional galleries. There are many successful galleries that don't advertise in major art magazines. These are the type that I've worked with and they've been great.

Art collectors live everywhere. In New England, some of the most successful galleries are where people from NY, CT, NJ, MA have second/summer homes.

I also know several artists who make a good living entirely from doing outdoor art shows in New England. Just want to point out that being in a high visibility gallery is not the only answer to making a living as an artist.

I'm thinking that it might be helpful for artists to be aware of what gallerists look for in the way of credentials, awards, body of work, framing, etc.

Depending on what style and medium your work is, that makes a difference too about what kind of gallery artists approach.


Marsha Savage
via clintwatson.net
Lori, thanks for these comments. I thoroughly agree about needing to know which credentials are considered most important by a gallery.

Most of us will not try for those top level galleries and will be represented by wonderful regional ones.

I think it would be of interest to us to consider the type of conversations to start out with. What would a gallery wish to hear first? Sales? Awards? Body of work produced in what amount of time?

Also, I think an item of interest would be "what should the artist ask the gallery?" And I realize these questions or conversations would be after their might be a mutual interest in representation. I have said the next galleries I approach I will be asking them questions like: (1) what kind of sales figures did you have the past year (six months, etc); (2) how were these figures distributed across mediums, genre, etc; (3) how involved do you wish your artist to be with the clients; (4) do you share your client information on the sale of a work with the artist; (5) will you provide a link to the artist web site? These are some of the questions I would want answered before considering that gallery. I think it should be a two-way street with trust on both sides.

I would love to hear gallery managers and owners chime in on these types of issues. I think we can learn from these types of dialogue!
Marsha


Peggy Kingsbury
via fineartviews.com
Thank you for this article. We need gallery owners who love art and your passion comes across so well. Whenever anyone says to me "I could never do that.", I like to say that there are so many ways to enjoy art without making it. The world just needs art! (And, we need Clint!)

Claudia L Brookes
via clintwatson.net
Lori--In the first couple of years of my artistic career, I was in a local gallery that sold 20 of my watercolor paintings in its first year of business. Then a new owner came in, who was actually quite sucessful with that gallery, and sold only one of my paintings in the second year. I can only think that the first owner loved my work, and promoted it, but that it wasn't a good fit for the second owner who had "inherited" me as an artist. As far as the gallery went, same location, perhaps somewhat different clientele, but certainly a change in "curatorial" focus and marketing style. I was no longer a "fit" for that gallery. At that point, I removed myself from the gallery (nicely), and still have a good relationship there--I am invited for occasional group shows, and contacted about possible commissions that fit my style and subject matter.

After many years of successfully selling my own work and building my own clientele for both my watercolors and plein air oil landscapes, I now maintain only one gallery in St. John, USVI. However, at this point in my career, with awards, teaching, and many juried plein air competitions under my belt, I am ready to do the work of finding appropriate galleries in the regional areas that I have painted most often, such as the Eastern shore of Maryland, coastal Maine, Colorado and Wyoming. I optimistically assume that there will be galleries that will be interested in my work, and that it is my job to find them. Learning what I have to bring to the table is invaluable, and here is my current list: to provide a steady and timely supply of quality work that fits that gallery's profile, to channel all my sales to the gallery and take the "buy now" buttons off my website, to maintain a good attitude and cordial relationship, and to be willing to help with client lists and marketing if requested.

JT Harding
via fineartviews.com
Scott makes a great point about updating websites regularly. Thank goodness I have a Fine Art Studios Online (FASO) website to help me do this easily.

Scott, I wonder if you subscribe to the enewsletters of any of the artists on your watch list?
JT

Casey Craig
via fineartviews.com
Thank you Scott for great insight and advice.

My recent experience might help those seeking gallery representation. I was recently accepted into a new gallery and it didn't happen as I had planned. In the past, this gallery usually posted submission guidelines, but when I was interested in submitting I couldn't find them on their website. I sent a brief query email asking if they were currently accepting artist submissions. I received a polite reply that stated - "Not at this time." I decided to send them a postcard anyway. The day they received my postcard, they looked at my website and contacted me to come show my paintings in person. I brought in several paintings and they decided to bring me onboard for their current small works show. Had I not sent the postcard, this never would have happened.

If there are submission guidelines posted on a gallery website, I would definitely follow those, but, a postcard is a very unobtrusive way to let galleries see your work. I don't really consider it junk mail. Definitely do your research about the kind of work the gallery is exhibiting.

Thanks again for a great post!

Debra Russell
via fineartviews.com
Thanks Scott...I've been in your gallery numerous times and am so impressed by the quality of work, but know my style would not fit in with what you focus on. It was nice to hear that all the work put into maintaining a website and blog are being viewed by gallery owners. I have failed to keep my blog up to date recently...but will get right to that after I post this! Thanks again to FASO for the ease in doing both sites at the same time. DDR

Marsha Savage
via clintwatson.net
Claudia,
I can certainly understand what you did. I am in somewhat of the same position, but I have not withdrawn from the gallery. I have been there for about 11 years with a good sales record -- been consistently in their top ten selling artist list most years. This past year, with the terrible economy and a new gallery owner, sales have been about 1/4 of what they were the previous year.

We have a good relationship, though a combative one in a good way. We bounce ideas off each other and many times have a difference of opinion. I believe we trust each other, and allow each to have a different opinion.

It is worrisome at this time as it is my only gallery since three have closed within the last year and one-half due to economy. So, as you can guess, I am in the process of identifying galleries that I can apply to. Not a good place to be when worried about the economy.

Enjoyed reading your post as it sounds as if it could so easily be me. I also paint in different regions of the country and each region mostly only wants to carry work appropriate to their clients in that region. So, it is daunting to think of approaching galleries not close to home. I do visit them when in the area to see what they carry, how I would fit or not, etc.

Again, thanks for your comment. And all the comments and the original post do help with the thought processes. Marsha

Jack Walker
via fineartviews.com
I am relatively new to the art world and do admit that,at times,I was frustrated with the dynamics of gaining name recognition. I have had a modicum of success in the short time I have been pursuing the craft and I am grateful....from the beginning it seemed a catch 22, in the respect that you could not get into the prestigious shows UNTIL you had been in the prestigious shows and you were not considered by the prestigious Galleries UNTIL you had been in the prestigious galleries or garnered awards at the prestigious shows. I do understand that process keeps quality art in the shows and galleries but it was confusing from an artists stand point. Anyway...I am loving it and enjoy the challenges. I can`t imagine doing anything else.

Claudia L Brookes
via clintwatson.net
Marsha--As gallery owner Jason Horej points out in his book, "Starving to Successful" (highly recommended), the places to look for galleries are the places you already go to.

I get to Colorado now at least once a year for a week or so; I have family in Massachusetts, I have friends I visit near Bar Harbor in Maine, I get to St John, VI, for a couple of weeks a year, I am a pretty constant visitor on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. And of course, as a plein air painter, I paint in all of those places and bring wonderful photos back to do studio work if I so desire. So it is not a problem or much extra expense to visit any gallery in those locations, as I am already going to be there. Perhaps if you think this way, the galleries that are a good fit for you geographically will be more obvious, and will narrow your search. I hope this is helpful.

Diane Tasselmyer
via fineartviews.com
Dear Mr. Jones,
Thank you for sharing this article. It continues to demystify the process of approaching galleries for representation.
And thank you for writing this article and honoring artists everywhere who continue to push onward and learn more and more about this business of art.
Your information will not be taken lightly by me and I hope the others reading this will adhere to some of these simple guidelines.

Lisa Mozzini-McDill
via clintwatson.net
What a great article! Thank you for the information. I have never approached a gallery in fear of making a mistake. There is so much advice on what not to do. I thought the only way was to hope the next time I win an award someone might contact me. Your article was the first one I have read with viable suggestions of what to do. The hope that galleries are watching what you do and look at websites is encouraging. Now time to download and update and perhaps enter Clint's competition!

michele tisdale
via fineartviews.com
Thanks Scott,
Your inside perspective is extremely valuable. Thanks for the advice.

Esther J. Williams
via clintwatson.net
It's been so enlightening to read all the further comments as they are pouring into my email inbox. Clint, you started an open line of communication or chat room among artists. This reminds me of a blog I once used to hang around on several years ago about the housing market bubble. After awhile the guys would start arguing back and forth in the comment section and even insulting each other. It was too bad, the statistical and theoretical information was highly informative. But the nasty air and wondering if I was going to be insulted next left me uneasy. It wasn't long before I was attacked for making a simple comment. I left that blog and never went back. I think artists are gentler spirits for the most part and hopefully will keep it polite and civilized.
The information here is priceless, one can read it all day. Only I must get back to my 1,000 things to do in one day.

Scott Jones
via clintwatson.net
I got up early this morning and read through all of the comments. I really enjoy the sharing of ideas. I appreciate that. We are having our Holiday Art Walk in Jackson Hole this evening -- and I need to tend to some final preparations. The comments have inspired several other ideas and thoughts that I would like to respond to. I plan to do so after the Holiday rush.

Michael Cardosa
via clintwatson.net
Scott,

Good luck this evening with the Art Walk. Hope it's a great success for you. Thanks again for the great advice and looking forward to your next piece.

Michael

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net with facebook
Thanks Scott for this enlightening information - and thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts.

Michael Cardosa
via clintwatson.net
Clint,

Thanks for making this forum available and attracting people like Scott, Lori and Keith to name just a few who have such great ideas and information to share.

Michael

Fiona Purdy
via fineartviews.com
Thank you Scott for your valuable comments and advice. I am so glad that you did go ahead and write the article!

Lori Woodward
via clintwatson.net
Marsha.. great list of questions for artists to ask gallery owners. Thanks for sharing.

Debra Russell
via clintwatson.net
Scott, I'm looking forward to your future posts. I've been thinking of expanding my gallery respresentation to 2 more galleries. I think your suggestions will be a great help!

Kathryn Clark
via clintwatson.net
Dear Tom,

I loved your last sentence!! Oh how absolutely true!

Kathryn Clark
via clintwatson.net
Marsha,

I agree that this is an interesting discussion: what questions should you ask a gallery owner. You listed some good ones. Here are a few more: 1. How soon does the gallery pay the artist after a work is sold and paid for? one month, two months, once a quarter? 2. Does the gallery only sell work on consignment or does the gallery also sell work it ownes? What percentage of the inventory in the gallery does the gallery own? Galleries will always try to work harder to sell work it ownes. 3. Does the gallery ever let art work on consignment leave the gallery "on approval"? I've known galleries to rent art work they had on consignment and not tell the artist. If the artist noticed that a painting was not there, they were told it was out "on approval".

Lori Woodward
via clintwatson.net
Kathryn, thanks for the excellent additional questions. When I've worked with galleries, I've added in the agreement that the gallery must contact me and get my approval before they put a work out for approval. The same goes for when a discount is offered.

If a gallery does not have a written agreement, I write my own up. It's fair and includes normal gallery practices. I give one sheet to the gallery and keep one for my own records. The gallerist and I sign both.


Marsha Savage
via clintwatson.net
Kathyrn, Glad you brought up the other questions. I think the questions you presented are always something that should be asked. I should have said I ask those also. When a gallery pays the artist is one of the most important. Whether they give discounts is another question that should be covered extensively because some galleries split the discount between gallery and artist, and some absorb the discount themselves. Sometimes the discount is only on multiple purchases.

Hopefully some of these questions will mean we will have another good article about what you should do when interviewing a potential gallery!

Marsha Savage
via clintwatson.net
Cool! Thanks Lori, I will be reading these this morning with my coffee!

Jan Blencowe
via clintwatson.net
Thanks for those links Lori, I'm saving thr articles for reference.

Michael Cardosa
via clintwatson.net
Thanks for these Lori! Your work are always worth reading!

Michael

Barbara
via clintwatson.net
Thank you...what invaluable information! I will be bookmarking this!

Linda Wilder
via clintwatson.net
Scott, I look forward to your future article on this subject. And Lori thanks so much for the links...don't know how I missed them the first time

Katherine
via clintwatson.net
Scott,

Thanks for sharing this information. It was quite thoughtful of you to take time out of your busy schedule to help other artists.

Mark Haglund
via clintwatson.net
Scott, Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading your post. I think galleries like yours are very important in preserving the art of fine art. There was a time that fine art was out of style. Galleries like yours deserve more thanks then they get for keeping fine art alive in the art market. I have booked marked your website and will visit it often. Keep up the good work.
Mark

Louise B. Hafesh
via clintwatson.net
Scott, Enjoyed your post about approaching galleries. Great inside info from a gallery-owners perspective!

Was amazed that you've been approached by artists looking for you to carry their work who have actually put down those you currently represent. Tantamount to saying you have no taste, and then asking you to judge their work!

Stede Barber
via fineartviews.com
Thank you, Scott, for taking the time to share your valuable wisdom and insight, and for holding strong in your love for art and artists. Tomorrow...I update my website!

Legacy is a beautiful gallery, and the sense of love and respect of art that you radiate from the business side of the table is heartwarming. I am encouraged. Thank you again!

Stede Barber
via fineartviews.com
Did I miss a FASO connection to "Starving to Successful" by J. Jason Horejs?

Diane Donicht Vestin
via clintwatson.net
I just finished reading FINDING A GALLERY MANAGER by Scott Jones. I pretty much know my art would'nt fit into his style of paintings he collects to show, but his infomation on finding a gallery was extremely helpful. I have my own website and it need desperatly to be updated. Seeing I don't know how to do that, I have to rely on someone else with more computer savy to display my art. Hard to find. I just have one question for Scott: How do you find the right gallery? Just go to galleries online and see what comes up? Again, I don't know what I'm doing as far as marketing goes. I do know one thing: I am a good artist and any gallery who represents traditional art would be proud to show my work. After patting myself on the back, I'll go with this comment. Follow Scotts advice and you won't get stuck spending a large amount of painting time trying to get into galleries that don't show your type of artwork.
DONICHTfineart.com
DDVestin@q.com
Diane Donicht Vestin

Lori Woodward
via clintwatson.net
Diane, these blogs and forums are provided by Fine Art Studio Online. http://faso.com

It only costs me $28/month for my own domain name, having a private website that I can update by menu whenever I want, access to some neat stats on who visits my site, an email newsletter, and a blog. Who could ask for more.

Clint Watson, the software guru who designed these artist websites continually adds new features for us artists and so far has never raised the price. My husband is a software engineer who used to do my site for free, but he and I both admit that Clint's websites (FASO) are better. Besides, who has time to update my site but me?

I highly recommend it.

Michael Cardosa
via clintwatson.net
Hear! Hear! Lori...

Clint does a great job and I pitch FASO to any of my artist friends that will listen.

By the way, and this is anything but a side note, I always enjoy your postings as well.

Diane Tasselmyer
via clintwatson.net
Now that I own an FASO website, I cannot help but beat the FASO drum.
The wonderful comments I have received from my viewers have been numerous. I am slowly getting into all the things offered on site. My first newsletter was a hit and I have been checking all the stats stuff. WOW...I am really imnpressed. there is so much I can do with FASO.

Linda Wilder
via clintwatson.net
I also agree, Lori and Michael. Being somewhat computer illiterate, for the value I find Clint's website to be very user friendly and having the added bonus of an art community is invaluable.

Stede Barber
via fineartviews.com
Hi Diane,

I researched options for websites, and kept finding FASO as a great choice...I've had my site here for 3 years, and have much to learn about all I can do here. I love loading new images up so easily, and updating my site at a moment's notice. These sites also load quickly for viewers, very important! I looked at your site and especially love your top banner...if you don't find a template you love at FASO, you can invest a little bit up front and have your site customized for your taste...then still be able to update it yourself with ease. Worth looking into!

Jan Perkins
via clintwatson.net
Scott,

I totally enjoyed your blog and all the gallery info. and insight. I have long admired Legacy Gallery. Thanks!

Clint Watson
via clintwatson.net with facebook
Thanks everyone for your thoughts, feedback, praise :-) and comments on this thread.

Spencer Meagher
via clintwatson.net
"We don”™t sell art ”" the art sells itself." Incredible statement. I greatly appreciate this insight from such an expert. It inspires me to paint the very best I am capable of.

Marie Ackers
via faso.com
Great article, always nice to have gallery manager's point of view. Nice to also see that some gallery manage follow artists to see the development.
I wish all gallery managers were like yourself.










 

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