Undoubtedly, “how to acquire my first gallery show” is a frequently asked question by new artists. To novice artists, the art market might be intimidating & confusing.
Some beginners may be tempted to call the gallery show system a rigged game, but the fact is that emerging fine artists get representation in gallery shows all the time. The possibility of acquiring your first gallery show depends on your work, business sense, knowledge of the industry, and patience.
If you’re just entering the art industry and unaware of the ways to acquire your first gallery show, here’s what you need to know.
Key Elements to Getting a Gallery Exhibition
1. Develop Your Style/brand
The first thing is developing your own artistic style because that’s what makes your work feel authentic. Your style as an artist works the same as a brand voice.
For example: My style and brand are painting in a contemporary abstract style known as Spontaneous Realism with vivid colors and lots of texture marks from the palette knife. My brand name and everything I create is associated with this look.
You may find lessons on how to paint and draw, but you won’t find tutoring on how to create your own style. The reason for this because, only can develop your unique style and it develops with time naturally for most artists. You'll be drawn to a look and feel that you'll naturally gravitate towards during your development stages of your career. Once you find it - stick with it!
2. Have 15-20 High-quality Pieces Finished and Ready to Show
Before you scouring the search engines for art galleries to submit your work to, you need to have a body of work ready to display in shows.
So it goes without saying that you should have between 15-20 high-quality pieces finished & ready to exhibit. These art pieces will serve the role of a portfolio, therefore, produce your best creations. It is also best to have them all be in the same style. Curators want to know that you can focus and not be all over the board.
Don’t be hasty when developing your portfolio. Commit the time necessary and build a vast portfolio that’s a true representation of your style and skills. Developing a healthy portfolio will allow you to put your best foot forward. It also shows your commitment & professionalism to dealers and art gallery owners.
3. Write Your Artist Statement (first person)
An artist's statement is just as important as the artist's work. If you want your work to be featured in a gallery show, then you should prepare yourself like a professional.
You can view my "Famous Faces" statement: https://www.savvypalette.com/statement
An artist’s statement is a brief written description of the artist's work. When writing an artist statement, make sure to write it in the first person. Do not write a long series of sentences to explain your skills (that’s your portfolio’s job).
Your statement should rather focus on providing a verbal representation of your work. An artist’s statement acts as a stand-in for the artist and shapes the viewer’s perspective about their work.
4. Write Your Artist Bio (third person)
That’s where you need to write your top skills and brag about your work, experience, and expertise. Ideally, artist bio is written in the third person.
View my artist bio: https://www.savvypalette.com/bio
Your artist bio should be a compilation of your art career, background information, art mediums & special techniques, and inspiration. It should be written in a way that it sounds like someone else is writing about you (third person) and passionate about your work.
5. Make Sure to Have Your Own Artist Website
The power of the internet is undeniable. Now, a major portion of a fine artist’s audience is found on the internet. One of the ways to create your brand awareness, or connect with your audience is through your website.
If you don’t have a website, it means you’re missing out on a great share of your online audience. Having an artist website with your work on display and valuable content for your audience doesn’t only help you sell, but builds your authority as well.
Through your website, you can achieve multiple benefits. Your website acts as your portfolio, resume, online shop, and reputation building tool. By writing persuasive content for your aspiring fine artists, or art collectors you can build a strong reputation. You may sell your art pieces on your website and get direct clients instead of submitting your artwork to art galleries.
6. Develop a Marketing Plan (something most artists don’t do, but should)
Typically, fine artists do not focus on their business sense. However, strong marketing & business skills can help your approach dealers and gallery owners in a better way.
If you want to acquire your first gallery show within a decent amount of time, then develop a marketing plan that works.
To develop a marketing plan, you need to understand the workings of the art industry. The fine arts industry is a dynamic industry that requires you to stay up-to-date with its current working principles. Explore the market and your audience to ensure that your marketing plan is perfectly in-line with the audience & market’s requirements
Hiring the services of a professional marketer with relevant work experience can help too.
7. Research Galleries Currently Seeking New Artists
Assuming that you’ve fulfilled all the prerequisites and are ready to approach art gallery owners, you need to go on a lookout for galleries seeking new artists.
The basic way to find such galleries is through the internet. Search Google, social media sites, and other search engines to find art galleries currently seeking new & emerging fine artists.
Another way is to collect the contact details of art galleries and get in touch with them.
Find out whether they’re accepting new artists or not. Even if an art gallery isn’t seeking new artists, you should be confident enough to write a proposal to them. You never know when an art gallery management might find your work interesting enough to feature in their shows.
Make sure your style fits in with the galleries style and price range. You'll have to do a little investigation work for this, but it will pay off in the end, I promise.
8. Submit and Follow Their Requirements
Once done with the research work, write down all the art galleries seeking new artists. Make sure to read their requirements completely and try to follow each guideline when submitting your work. Most curators and gallery owners can be particular about following details and your submission could end up in the trash if not followed correctly.
Create a checklist for each art gallery requirement and fulfil them while writing your proposal and submitting the work. Following all requirements indicates that you’re a committed and professional fine artist who understand how the system works.
9. Be Realistic in Your Expectations
While it is tempting to target the hottest art gallery to exhibit your work, doing so can result in failure or embarrassment.
Before you rush into targeting an art gallery, it pays to think realistically where your artwork stands in the contemporary art market. The biggest benefit of being your own critique is that it enables you to set realistic expectations for your work.
Associating expectations from your work that’s not realistic increases the chances of encountering disappointment.
10. Be Prepared to Receive Lots of Rejection Letters
It can takes weeks to hear back and sometimes it is simply a form letter, or postcard stating they are not interested.
When you submit your entries to art galleries, not every gallery is going to accept your artwork. So it pays to prepare yourself in advance. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be confident & hopeful about your work. However, don't count out the rejection factor.
Your work may be good, but an art gallery might have limited slots, or your work may not be the best fit for the type of show a gallery is conducting. Therefore, tell yourself that you’re going to receive lots of rejection letters.
These rejection letters bring along a positive influence. Since you’re in the early days of your career, rejections will come your way. Learn from these rejections, improve your work, enhance your skill level, and learn to pitch better.
11. Develop Your Rhino Skin After Receiving Rejections
Rejections are a great way to evolve your skills as a professional fine artist. Instead of feeling disappointed, improve your skills, work ethics, and business sense. It will help you develop what I like to refer to as having a tough rhino skin which will help you deal effectively with rejections.
12. Don’t Give Up. Be Positive
Failures, rejections, and disappointments are part & parcel of every walk of life. Failure itself isn’t a failure until you give up. So don’t fear rejections and failures.
As an aspiring fine artist, you should stay positive all the time and encourage all sorts of criticism coming your way. Learn from your failures and improve yourself to eliminate those factors that lead to failing. Once you overcome those factors, you’re more likely to experience achievements of success.
13. Wash & Repeat Above Until You Find a Gallery That Accepts Your Submission
Once you’ve followed the expert advice from senior artists, assembled a vast portfolio, learned marketing skills, and adopted a positive attitude to feature your artwork in an art gallery show - you’ve done your part. What happens next isn’t in your control. If you succeed, then it’s great. If you fail, then wash & repeat the above process until you succeed.
Points Worth Remembering
· Artists need to be their own critique and understand the worth of their work.
· Remember that galleries charge a 20%-50% commission per art piece. Therefore, set a realistic price for your work. Don’t undersell your work.
· Don’t depend on the gallery or curator only for the marketing of your work. Develop a strong marketing plan.
· Reach out to your target audience and let them know that your artwork is currently in an exhibition or art gallery show.
· Spread the news of your upcoming show through your blog.
· Build your online presence through your website and social media channels and leverage their marketing capabilities.
· Once you get a show offer; attend the opening night reception.