Galleries, Shows, Exhibitions – Part I

Galleries, Shows, Exhibitions

When you talk to a person on the street and tell them you are an artist, one of the questions that they will likely ask is, “What gallery is your work in?” Being in a gallery is a large part of many artists marketing efforts and for some says, “I have arrived”.

The reasons for having your work in a gallery can range from pure vanity, adding to your resume, increasing your exposure to making money by selling art. Hopefully one of your main goals will be to get new customers and build your brand at the same time.

There are two main parts of displaying your work in a gallery, the presentation or exhibition part and the business part. The exhibition part is about preparing a body of work, displaying and merchandising it properly and providing a great experience to the gallery visitors. The business part is about choosing the right venue, with the right customers, having the right agreements in place and marketing your work so you end up with a profit.

 Displaying your work

A gallery is an area where you display or sell your art. A gallery can take the form of:

  • A part of your studio
  • Your own gallery
  • A shared space such as an artist’s coop
  • A museum, library or other public space
  • An independent gallery
  • Online
  • Just about any other place you can think of to display and sell your art

 The traditional gallery approach

There are numerous books written on how to get your work exhibited in a gallery. The process goes something like this:

  1. Get a body of work together.
  2. Develop your artist’s statement for the work.
  3. Do some research on the galleries to see if there is a fit. This is where networking, referrals and getting to know gallery owners becomes very important.
  4. Make an appointment before you approach a gallery and be respectful of the gallery owner’s time.
  5. Show them your work.
  6. If the gallery wants to represent your work then work out a business arrangement or….
  7. Prepare yourself for rejection.

Things to consider with gallery representation

Before you enter into any relationship with a gallery make sure that you understand what you are getting into. If you are unsure of a particular gallery relationship, talk to your legal advisor or someone who is knowledgeable about the gallery business. Here are some basic things to look out for:

  • Do you have a big enough body of work to support the gallery?
  • Is the gallery appropriate for your art and the gallery’s customer base?
  • What is the gallery / artist split?
  • What expenses will be paid by the artist, by the gallery?
  • Is there a written contract and do you understand it?
  • Who is responsible for insurance and in what amounts?
  • Who is responsible for the delivery of your art to the gallery?
  • Who is responsible for set up / take down of your gallery show?
  • What dates / hours will you need to be at the gallery?
  • What if a customer tries to come directly to buy from you?
  • How long will the relationship last (CONTRACTUALLY)?
  • Who will promote and market your show?
  • Does a relationship with the gallery help grow your brand?

In the next article Galleries, Shows, Exhibitions Part II – Contracts With A Gallery we will take a look at the elements of a contract between the artist and the gallery.

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About Neil McKenzie

Neil McKenzie is an author, educator and consultant to artists and arts organizations. He is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver. Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto