I have recently reached out to some artists I admire inquiring about how I should go about getting my work into galleries. Everyone has actually had very similar feedback, but the below is from Ellen Levine Dodd, and Abstract Expressionist Painter I have been communicating with for a few years.
I initially reached out to her about joining her on the West Coast for a Painting Workshop (which did not come to fruition due to having two babies under the age of two!) But we touch base periodically and I keep up with her via her Instagram Feed.
I asked her if I could share her response because I think it will help many other artists out there who have the same question.
In Ellen's words:
As for getting into galleries. I’m asked this quite often. I’m thankful for the two galleries that represent me on a regular basis. They both came to me. I did not do anything but work hard, try to grow as an artist by doing whatever I could to improve my art. I took lots of carefully selected workshops with artists I respected, visited galleries to see what art was out there, and what inspired me. I also started doing social media, and communicating with supporters, and essentially make myself as visible as was in my control
The first relationship came by having my studio open at a well-attended Open Studios event. They looked around for a long time, and then waited until there was no one else in the studio, and came up to me, introduced themselves, handed me business cards, and told me they were interested in talking about representing me. We talked, created a relationship, that is constantly being nurtured and it’s 6 years later and we are still working together.
The second, an out-of-town gallery emailed me and explained that they would be opening a new art gallery, and they were interested in representing me. We talked, vetted each other, created a relationship. I agreed, and I’ve been part of their gallery for the past 3 years. I asked how they found me, and they were not positive but, thought that originally they had read a blog about me, and then kept seeing postings on social media. I did go out there for the grand opening, and we keep in communication.
I’ve not been successful with the direct approach. My best advice is to symbolically "put yourself in the middle of an easily accessible road" that you know the people you wish to show with use regularly, and let them find you. My experience is that if someone discovers you rather than the other way around, they will be more committed to the relationship than if you pound, or even knock politely, on their door. Galleries have so many artists approaching them that their first response is usually not the positive response you are seeking.
If possible visit the galleries you are interested in, be friendly, and interested in who they are showing and what they are doing rather than talkative about yourself. And above all keep on growing your art. When it is ready to be out there in the world, it will become a magnet that will attract galleries and viewers. And because of the positive indirect relationships you have been nurturing, they will potentially have been watching you and know that your art has reached a maturity that they can represent and sell to their clients.
It’s difficult, and sometimes takes a very long time. The best thing you can do is to constantly work hard at your art, and apply to open call competitions or other juried competitions where people you want to work with are involved.
In other words, there is no secret sauce to get into galleries. If you decide to send a presentation to a gallery you are interested in, after you have visited the gallery, make sure to find out whether they are accepting presentations. The worst thing is to create an initial negative impression.
Not sure this helps and wish it was easier for all of us,
I hope that Ellen's feedback is very helpful to my other emerging artist friends. If you have any feedback to add to this, please feel free to Contact Me: I would love to hear from you!