Getting your art shown in a gallery is a huge step for any artist. Galleries receive many submissions, so you may have to work hard to get your art displayed in public. However, the effort is definitely worth the chance to gain recognition as an artist.
There are several things you can do to help get your artwork displayed in a gallery. From perfecting your portfolio, to building an online presence, our checklist below guides you through improving your chances of a successful gallery submission.
Polish your Portfolio
Your portfolio is the most important thing to stop and consider. It must shine with your best work and instantly capture the viewer’s attention.
Be a harsh critic. Reflect on the styles, genres, and mediums that you have experimented with in the past. Choose the style that you think is the most successful; it must be original, eye catching, and consistent.
Choose your top five pieces of artwork that you want displayed. Make sure that ALL the pieces reflect the same consistent style that defines you as an artist. They must all be of the same genre and medium.
Considering your five best pieces, think about your portfolio statement. What is your message, or aim in creating your artwork? What is your inspiration? Write a single sentence that encapsulates your artwork and explains your style.
Tidy your Online Gallery
Your goal is to showcase your chosen style to the world. The best artists are known for their distinctive styles, which they refine and perfect over time. Make sure that ALL your artwork on display online is in line with your current style. Remove any artwork that is less than perfect or doesn’t fit in with your current style and genre. For example, if you are trying to submit a series of colourful landscapes to a gallery, don’t display portraits on your social media pages. Make sure that you are consistent across all platforms.
Prepare for Opportunities
You never know when an opportunity might arise. Wouldn’t you kick yourself if you happened to meet a gallery director, only to find that you have nothing to show him?
Be proactive and print yourself some professional business cards. Choose one of your favourite paintings that you think best reflects your style to display on the card, alongside your personal details and website (if you have one).
Keep these handy at all times and keep an eye out for opportunities to display your card. You might find local libraries and community centres will take some cards for you, or a local coffee shop.
Research your Target
Once you are ready with your portfolio, it’s time to research the gallery that you are interested in. Look for galleries who accept local artists and aren’t too far away to travel to. Research the gallery’s style- do they only accept contemporary art, or photography? Consider carefully whether your artwork ‘fits’ with the gallery’s current collection. Don’t waste your time submitting a portfolio if your artwork would be clearly out of place.
When conducting your research, also look for any seasonal collections. For example, a gallery might be holding a special collection on the theme of Winter Wonderland, which may happen to fit your artwork style. Seize these opportunities as the competition will be reduced for themed collections.
Lastly, try and find the name of a person, or persons, who could be contacted about a portfolio submission. Letters and emails are much more readily received if the recipient is addressed by name. This will also aid you if you are planning on attending the gallery in person, as you can ask to speak to the specific person in question.
Sign up to newsletters
In addition to your research, sign up to gallery newsletters for updates about upcoming collections, submission periods, and competitions. This is your best way to get ahead of the curve by hearing about submission windows before anyone else.
Signing up to newsletters also helps you to get a feel for the gallery. The more you know about the way the gallery is run, or the type of art it displays, the better your chance of submitting the right artwork at the right time.
Win a competition
Another way into a gallery is by winning a competition. Some galleries launch competitions with the aim of discovering local talent- so here’s your opportunity!
Subscribe to the gallery’s online social media channels for news, as well as keeping an eye on newsletters and online forums. Visit the gallery’s websites regularly to check for updates.
Don’t rush a competition entry; read the instructions carefully and ask for others’ opinions on your artwork. This is one of the best opportunities to make your artwork visible to a gallery, so make the most of it.
Visit local galleries
If you can, visiting the galleries in person makes a huge difference to submissions. Presenting your portfolio personally can really help your artwork to shine and the gallery to consider your case.
When visiting galleries, dress professionally, and come prepared with your portfolio, artist statement, and business cards. Be ready to talk about your art- what medium is it? What is your inspiration? Make sure to leave the gallery with a smile, and be polite. Leave them your business card to come back to- you never know!
It can seem disheartening when all your hard work comes to nothing. It is a long process, but you never know what’s just round the corner. Keep submitting, keep visiting, keep entering competitions. You never know when your luck will turn, and suddenly, you’ll be a published artist.
Look for alternatives
So maybe you haven’t had any luck with a gallery yet. Don’t worry! While you’re waiting for the right opportunity, consider other alternatives alongside your gallery submissions.
Local venues such as coffee shops, churches and charities are often great ways to display your artwork. Why not bring your portfolio to some of your local community hubs and have a friendly chat with the manager? Any increased exposure to your artwork is beneficial, and you might find a new niche to sell your artwork.
You might like to also consider non-profit galleries. These are often less competitive and will still increase your exposure as an artist. It’s also a great way to add credibility to your online biography.
It may seem a difficult task, but getting your artwork shown in a gallery is a worthwhile endeavour. Take the opportunity along the way to receive feedback on your art and make improvements. Refine your style and look for what makes your art special.
Be patient, look for opportunities, and soon, you might find your artwork hanging in a professional gallery.