Artist Inc. – Class 3 – Gallery Relations 101

The Artist Inc. program continues to delve into some important topics for visual artists. This post will highlight some of the discussions from Class 3 where we covered Gallery Relations.

Gallery relations, portfolios, photographs, and other gallery resources:
Taught by Alicia Bailey, Owner of Abecedarian Gallery and book artist, Alicia provided extremely useful information from the perspective of both a gallery owner and a working visual artist. Here some highlights from her class:
Regarding images of your artwork:
– Label your digital images with artist name NOT with the artwork title.
– Limit your submitted portfolio to one primary medium and be consistent.
– Eliminate distracting backgrounds from your images (esp. for 3D work).
– Avoid including the artwork’s frame in your image, unless it of particular importance to the work.
– Order your images in a way that strives for balance as images are often looked at all together.
– Follow directions concerning image size and what materials a gallery requests. Your portfolio is a way to evaluate your future relationship with the gallery.
-Keep one good image large of your work and then lock this file. Do a ‘Save As’ to make specific, smaller copies for other uses.
-Several good inventory softwares are on the market for managing your images – check them out here: Flick, Bento or Alyson Stanfield’s blog about inventory systems.

Regarding approaching galleries:
-Visit the gallery first, if possible.
-Remember that galleries are businesses; talk about your saleability, your collectors, and what you bring to the table.
-Some galleries have a dedicated time when they look at artist submissions. Call first, or make an appointment; don’t go in expecting them to drop everything to look at your work. Don’t be overly pushy either, they will contact you if they like your work.
-In general, be consistent with your body of work and medium. A gallery needs to know you are reliable not a “dabbler”.

Pricing:
-Prices must be consistent across the board.
-The commission a gallery takes allows the gallery to keep the lights on, and is also a way for the gallery to commit to you in time, energy and effort.
-Geography has an impact: NY prices are higher because rents are higher. As the artist, you have to decide what’s worth it to keep your prices consistent. Maybe you don’t go to NY until you establish a reputation elsewhere so you can build up your prices.
– Decide what your policy is on discounting and what free reign you give your gallery for doing so.
– To establish your own prices, one technique is to search for artists working in a similar media/size and who has a similar type of artist reputation. Look at their past year’s prices, do they increase each year, etc?

General gallery relations:
-The artist should expect the gallery to treat them with regard, to place their work well, to include them in PR and marketing efforts; A gallery expects each artist to contact their patrons, and help promote the gallery as well.
-It’s good to have a signed agreement of some kind detailing how things will work between you and the gallery; don’t expect a gallery to remember every conversation and detail of your past conversations.
– Potentially avoid galleries that treat visitors poorly. Visit first incognito to see how you are treated.
-Look at the website carefully, do they have too many artists, how are artists represented on the website?
-Clarify how the gallery handles insurance of the artwork. As an artist, you can attach a rider to your own insurance policy to cover artwork in other locations.

A few gallery types and artist opportunity examples:
-Co-ops: artist does all the work, often have solo or 2-person shows; this is a great way to get exposure and build experience hanging shows, doing your own PR, etc.
-Gallery Rentals: renting one space for a specified period of time. Another good way to start building your resume.
-University Galleries and other nonprofit spaces: mission is to educate, so sales are scare. But, these opportunities can be more bang for your buck in terms of building your resume. You can organize workshops, lectures, artist residencies, etc. along with holding an exhibition.
-Restaurants or multi-use venues: the work doesn’t get as much attention since the venue has another purpose, but many people will see the artwork which could lead to other opportunities.
-Juried Shows: gets your work in front of lots of people/curators/professors, etc. Often shows are specific to a theme/medium so it is a filtered and captive audience. Determine your budget for the year, for example, and enter only those shows that seem the most appropriate to what you do.

If your art exhibitions can have multiple “hooks” with the media, this increases the possibility that your show will be covered in the press. Be willing to think strategically about how to get your work in front of the most numbers of people. There are so many ways to mount art shows, don’t be afraid to think creatively or take a chance. Building your resume with lots of shows, lectures, volunteer activities, etc. is useful to advancing your career as an artist.

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