As part of an ongoing series, Gallery Owner Vicki Fox explains some of the most important things to consider when approaching galleries for representation.
Find the right gallery for you
Before approaching a gallery, have a look at their web presence or visit in person. If you do choose to visit the gallery in person, remember your gallery etiquette: this is an opportunity for you to learn more about the gallery and to understand the type of work they show, but not to ask them to show your work or pretend you are interested in buying a piece when you have no intention to do so.
Look at the quality and type of works the gallery represent. If a gallery has a focus on pop-surrealism and your work is mainly photo-realism, you will be more successful if you approach a gallery specialising in photo-realism.
Be honest about the calibre of your work. Look at the art in the gallery and your own art objectively and decide if they are of similar quality. Not all artists are gallery ready and not all galleries are suitable for certain works.
Look at the artists they represent and how long they have represented those artists for. While galleries will always be introducing fresh works and artists, a gallery that has artists that they’ve worked with for some time can indicate they’re a good gallery to work with. On the other hand, a very quick turnover of work or artists that never return is something to consider.
Once you have determined the gallery as a possible fit for your work, contact them via email. Emailing creates a better first impression than approaching in person, and approaching uninvited can lower your chance of representation.
Address the right person
If possible, find out the name of the owner or curator and address the appropriate person in your email. This may seem a small thing, but it will show you have done some research, are invested in being part of the gallery and not just doing a mass email to every gallery you stumbled on during a quick web search.
Your email should: • be brief and to the point, • act similar to a CV or cover letter, • be professional, • be free of spelling errors, • outline who you are, • state what medium(s) you work in, • mention where you are currently represented,
Explain what you would like from the gallery such as representation or the opportunity to take part in exhibitions.
Galleries and artists require a good relationship and good communication is vital. This email will play a factor in whether a gallery feels you will be good to work with or not.
Attach samples of your work
Attach three to five images of your current work. Choose works that reflect your current body of work and show cohesion. If a gallery takes you on they will be expecting work that has consistent style and quality.
First impressions count
Make sure you have everything you need to make a good first impression in your initial email. Include links to your social media accounts and website for reference so the galleries have the option to visit them if they want to find out more about you. Don’t rely on using the links as an alternative to attaching images to the email but have the information there and easily accessible.
Think about your timing
Timing is everything. You will be able to tell from a gallery’s social media presence if they have a new exhibition or event opening coming up. Galleries are often extremely busy in the time leading up to an exhibition and your email may be overlooked.
Thank the gallery
As a courtesy, don’t forget to thank the gallery for taking the time to look at your work.
Vicki Fox is owner of Quirky Fox Gallery in Hawera, and runs an artist mentoring programme, Creative Compass, with fellow artist and gallery owner Santie Cronje (Deciduus).
Designed with visual artists in mind, but applicable to a range of mediums, Creative Compass aims to guide emerging artists through their professional journey, answering questions and developing skills and confidence to reach the next level in the New Zealand art scene.