Even as the art world becomes more democratized thanks to the internet, having your work shown in a gallery is still a huge milestone for many artists. In many ways, it can help legitimize your work and give you an opportunity to introduce your work to collectors and art enthusiasts alike. So, how do you do it? We asked writer Kira Cook to find out for us!
You've done the work. You've got a presentable body of work of which you're proud. You're on that hustle. Now you want it to be seen. In today's truly extraordinarily saturated art market, how does an artist get the attention of an art space or gallery? It's a nebulous area for a lot of artists so we asked several art galleries the best way an artist can go about getting their work into a gallery show.
I've got so many great tips for you, not only on what steps to take, but almost more importantly, approaches to definitely avoid. Read on for some fantastic advice from gallerists in Los Angeles and New York City who shed some light on how to get your work more exposure in shows and galleries.
Faye Orlove, Junior High
My advice is to pitch a full gallery concept. At Junior High, I love when curators approach me and have ideas for full shows. It's not as helpful when I get an email that's like "I paint, please include me." Chances are, I'll forget about you. The people I remember and want to include are folks who have full show concepts and want to help curate an event!
Schelsey Mahammadie-Sabet, Lei Min Space
But for perhaps one or two artists which were introduced to me through mutual connections in "real" life, I have found most of my artists on the internet, more specifically, on Instagram. It is a perfect platform for visual artists as it's accessible, widely used and undistracted by text. Websites can be difficult to navigate and they can be image heavy, especially on a phone. It's fair to say that most people spend their leisurely browsing time on their phones so make yourself available to this. The more content you have on the internet, the higher the chances that your work will be seen and fully appreciated. You don't even have to worry about the cohesion of your online presence. That shit's washed out. Just put your stuff online - I want to see it!
If you'd like to get really pro, you get your ass to art shows. Go and meet people. The internet is great, but personal connections are much stronger. Not only will these events help you to network, they will help you with your art - I think all artists can learn so much from each other. Most of the gallerists I know show artists they've known for years. I used to think this was a sort of nepotism, but it's more that gallerists are more willing to work with people whom they know and trust -- an art show is a highly emotional and expensive prospect, after all.
When I first got into this work, one wise gentleman told me that the trick to making it in the art world was simply to be able to "hold your liquor."Â How I interpreted this: Go out and make friends. The more you do this, the more likely it will become that you will meet someone with a space who really believes in your work. I know that socializing can be gruesome, but, if your art is important to you, you will take one for the team. Your art is your baby and it deserves everything you've got.
Lastly, professionalism is crucial. Nobody wants to waste their time and money on a person who isn't respectful, timely, and/or is bad at communicating. This is very make or break. (And this goes both ways: gallerists ought to be utterly respectful to their artists).
Carlye Packer, Club Pro LA
Send images of your work to a gallery's info account - If the work is of interest to the gallery, they will pursue it. If not, there was no harm in trying.
Jackie Klempay, SITUATIONS (NYC)
Go to openings at galleries where you like what's on display. Engage the work and talk to people about what is showing. (Don't blab about yourself and tell the people who work there that you want a show - it's kinda annoying.)
After you've built some relationships, you can ask people to visit your studio. Ask artists, curators, friends to come over. (Now is the time to show people what you make. Do your song-and-dance.) Make sure you remember to actually meet them. When they arrive it's nice to offer them a drink and a chair. Maybe someone will think of you when organizing a show or maybe the reward is simply gaining new insights about your work. Don't be sad if someone you really want to come says no - other great people will come eventually. Maybe an artist will invite you to their studio in return, say yes. Or if they are talking about making something you think sounds interesting, ask if you can swing by to check it out.
Organize Your Own Shows
Organize artist-curated shows with your friends. Have a show in a garden, a library, your grandma's hallway. Be generous and offer to collect the works, buy some beer, write a press release. Have fun.
Remember to make art.
Eli Consilvio, MAMA Gallery
There's no one way for an artist to get in a gallery show. My advice? Go to as many shows, exhibitions, and galleries as possible.
Isaac Lyles, Lyles & King (NYC)
Find Your Community
It's about being part of the community. It's going to exhibitions if you're a sort of person that's just starting out and you've never been to my gallery before, and you walk in and you say, "will you visit my studio?"Â Well, no. I don't know who you are, and most likely, you don't know what I do and what kind of work I show. Same with emails out of the blue, etc. I think there's something really to be said about the general adage that the best way to find art and artists is through other art and artists. It's basically, you find the artist that you love, and they say "You should also look at this guy and this gal."Â That's really The Way.
Go to Grad School
For someone that's completely on the outside looking in to the art world, this is where a lot of the time the idea of going to grad school and getting an MFA in many ways is important because you're just in a studio building with people for 2 years, and you develop friendships and alliances to the point where you have a community, and that is vital for one's career and for making those connections later on.
Move to the Big Cities
Additionally, If you're in the States, move to New York, or move to LA. That is what you do. Of course you don't have to, you can do whatever you want. But ultimately, it's a good idea to find your community of like-minded people.
What are your tips for getting your work into galleries? Share with us in the comments below!