How to Get Your Artwork Displayed in Galleries: The Ultimate Guide for Artists

Of all the ways to sell art one of the most desirable and prestigious is of course through reputable art gallery representation.

Today we are going to throw away the ‘how to get in an art gallery’ text book. That tired old send-your-portfolio-in-a-stamped-self-addressed-envelope-never-to-be-opened approach is for sissies and kinda-wanna-gonna-be types of artists. You are a mover and a shaker, an art star in the making. You are not going to stand for that. You are going to take some direct action, today, right now, if not sooner! (though I have some ideas for you if you are indeed wanting to create an art portfolio).

Okay, we’ll get to the good bit soon, but first a little reflection on the state of play….

Getting your artwork into galleries is one of the best ways to gain exposure as an artist Having your pieces displayed in coveted art spaces brings prestige, connects you with collectors, and grows your audience But getting gallery representation is extremely competitive. You can’t just walk into a top art gallery and expect them to start hanging your work on their walls.

It takes persistence and savvy to catch the eye of gallery owners and curators. You must intentionally build your art career, create pieces galleries want to show, and market yourself effectively. Follow these tips to learn how to get your work displayed in art galleries:

Curate an Impressive Portfolio

Your portfolio is your calling card as an artist. It’s the first thing galleries will want to see when considering whether to represent you. Take time to thoughtfully curate a collection of your very best work. Include 10-15 pieces that demonstrate your style and abilities.

When putting together your portfolio make sure to

  • Highlight your strongest most original artworks. Don’t pad your portfolio with weaker pieces just to make it longer. Quality over quantity.

  • Show cohesion. Your portfolio should communicate a consistent artistic vision and style. Don’t include pieces that seem randomly chosen.

  • Present your work professionally. Invest in a nice portfolio case and display your work clearly. Poor presentations can ruin first impressions.

  • Explain your work. Include short descriptions explaining the concept and inspiration behind each piece. Help gallery owners understand your work.

Research Galleries Before Reaching Out

You want your work to resonate with a gallery’s identity and audience. So take time researching potential galleries before contacting them. Here’s what to look for:

  • Art styles – What type of art does the gallery primarily show? Is your work a good fit?

  • Artist roster – Do they represent artists similar in style, medium, or vision to you? Study the other artists.

  • Exhibition history – Look at past exhibitions. Do they display work like yours? Reaching out will be a waste of time if your art doesn’t match their exhibiting patterns.

  • Location and clients – A gallery’s location and clientele will impact who buys your work. Make sure their audience matches your target collectors.

  • Reputation and reach – Well-regarded galleries with media pull and industry influence can propel your career. But they’re extremely competitive to get into.

Make Your Approach Proactive and Professional

Don’t just randomly email galleries asking if they’ll represent you. That’s unlikely to get a response. Craft a professional introduction showcasing you as a serious artist:

  • Send an artist statement explaining your work, artistic vision, and achievements. Show you’re developing a compelling artistic identity.

  • Include your bio highlighting your background, education, past exhibitions, press, and awards. Prove you’re actively exhibiting.

  • Attach your portfolio or link to your professional website featuring your work. Make it easy for them to view your art.

  • Suggest setting up a studio visit if they’re interested in seeing your work in person or having a discussion. Provide availability.

  • Follow up if you don’t hear back after 2 weeks. Gently inquire if they received your materials and restate your interest in meeting. Don’t harass them.

Attend Gallery Openings and Events

Connect with gallery owners and curators in person by attending openings and events. You can introduce yourself, view their space, and get a better sense of the galleries you want to work with.

To make the most of gallery events:

  • Dress professionally like the arts patrons attending. Make a good impression with your polished, artsy look.

  • Arrive early when gallery owners are less busy. Time to chat may be scarce once the event gets crowded.

  • Confidently but humbly introduce yourself to the owner or curator. Shake hands, compliment their space, and express interest in exhibiting.

  • Bring business cards with your artist name, website, and portfolio info to easily share. Casually offer your card if it feels appropriate.

  • Don’t push too hard for an answer about representing you on the spot. The goal is starting a relationship that leads to future conversations.

Apply to Calls for Entry for Gallery Exhibitions

Galleries announce open calls for artists to submit works for consideration in upcoming exhibitions. Responding to targeted calls is less intrusive than cold contacting. Plus, you know they’re actively looking to fill exhibition space.

  • Seek out calls for entry from galleries you’d like to work with by browsing their website and social media. Sign up for their newsletter.

  • Carefully follow submission guidelines provided in the call for entry. Submit all required materials correctly. Pay submission fees if applicable.

  • Only submit your very best, most relevant work. Group exhibitions have themes. Curate pieces that truly fit, rather than including filler.

  • Be patient if accepted. It could be months between hearing you’re accepted and the exhibition installation. Your work will come off fresh if the curators haven’t overseen it repeatedly.

Build Relationships With Gallery Staff

Getting representation relies heavily on relationship building. The better a gallery knows and trusts you as a professional artist, the more confident they’ll feel taking you on. Find opportunities to gradually build rapport:

  • Ask for informational interviews with gallery staff members to get their advice for breaking into their industry. People enjoy sharing expertise.

  • See if you can schedule a studio visit with curators interested in seeing your body of work in person. Studio visits build critical connections.

  • Offer to assist installing exhibitions if local galleries need extra hands. You’ll interface with staff and gain experience.

  • Volunteer at fundraisers or events hosted by the gallery, even just checking coats or serving drinks. Face time matters when they make exhibiting decisions.

  • Collaborate on projects like group shows or art festivals if possible. Successful collaborations pave the way for bigger opportunities down the road.

Apply for Art Residencies

Residency programs allow artists to work in galleries or art centers for an extended period. It’s a chance to intensely focus on your practice while using the space and facilities. Residencies also provide built-in opportunities to form relationships with gallery staff that could lead to future shows.

When researching residencies:

  • Look for programs sponsored by galleries you want to work with long-term.

  • Apply to competitive residencies. Being accepted helps validate you as a serious artist.

  • Fully engage gallery staff during your residency. Attend exhibition openings, studio visits with curators, and talks if possible.

  • Put on a well-promoted public exhibition at the end of your residency if allowed. Get lots of influential eyes on your work.

Collaborate With Established Artists

Partnering with artists who already have gallery representation provides exposure to spaces otherwise difficult to access as an emerging artist. Ways to collaborate include:

  • Entering two- or three-person exhibitions where one artist already has a gallery relationship. You instantly gain access to their collector network.

  • Participating in group shows curated around a theme or collective identity by an artist with gallery ties. Ensure you’re prominently credited.

  • Having an established artist feature your work alongside theirs in their solo gallery exhibition. Aim for prominent positioning.

  • Getting mentored by an experienced artist with gallery representation and learning from their wisdom navigating the art world.

  • Assisting established artists with installing major shows or helping fabricate their works. Bond over the creative process.

Persistently Grow Your Skills and Body of Work

Galleries want to work with artists on the rise who continuously generate impressively skilled work that sells. Stay persistent developing your craft through:

  • Regularly creating new pieces and series that represent growth. Galleries look for emerging styles and fresh ideas.

  • Taking workshops and classes to keep strengthening your techniques and expanding creatively.

  • Doing studies of influential artists’ styles to enrich your visual vocabulary.

  • Practicing handling feedback well by openly but selectively incorporating constructive critique from others into your work process.

  • Entering competitions and challenges that provide deadlines and opportunities to create new work. Winning is a big resume boost.

Your consistently improving portfolio will demonstrate your dedication to your art and make galleries confident in your career potential. Don’t get discouraged by initial rejections. Persist in finding opportunities to exhibit outside of galleries while systematically growing your profile and network. With strategic effort over time, your work can make it onto those coveted gallery walls. Just stay focused on your vision and keep creating.

how to get your work in gallery

“Oh no! Not another @#$%# artist!”

Do you know that most good Art Galleries are approached on a daily basis by Artists wanting to be represented? It must be quite tiresome for them, with all that time spent on the phone talking to eager artists, avoiding the phone so they don’t have to talk to eager artists, opening packages from artists, sending packages back to artists with little notes that say ‘thanks but no thanks’. Worse still are those artists who walk in the door, portfolio in hand and expect to have their work looked at, and advice given. As a Gallery Director it must be enough to make you want to run off and hide the store room. “Oh no, not again!”, they must wail internally, “not another bl**dy portfolio to look at…I have to do the accounts today!”. Artsyshark has some excellent info if you want know more about the world from a gallery directors point of view.

So how do you even stand a chance of getting a Gallery Director to look at your work, given that he or she has probably had it up to the proverbials with emerging artists who should really go back to the cocoons where they came from.

Here’s the good news…

It is perfectly possible to walk through the doors of a Gallery, without an appointment and walk out of the Gallery as a ‘represented artist’.

“Huh?” I hear you say. “Buuut you just said….”. Yes, I know what I just said, but, notwithstanding it is perfectly possible to do, and I know because my wife and I have done it. Twice. So it can’t have been a fluke

In order for this to happen there’s a few things that you need to have, and a few things you have to do…

(oh and before we do dive into this I would like to heartily apologise for the title of this post. The actual trying bit happens before you walk in the door of the gallery. If you came to this approach actually expecting ‘the slackers approach to selling your art in a gallery for a truckload of cash without trying’ then I have mislead you.)

How to get your work accepted into art galleries

How do I get my work featured in an art gallery?

Consider these steps for getting your work featured in an art gallery: 1. Prepare the works you want to feature As an artist, you may have hundreds of pieces you want to show the world. However, space at an art gallery is limited. It’s a good idea to prepare a handful of works to show the gallery rather than bringing your entire collection.

How do I get into an art gallery?

There’s no clear-cut formula for gaining entry to an art gallery. However, certain strategies can help you get your work seen by collectors. Consider these steps for getting your work featured in an art gallery: 1. Prepare the works you want to feature As an artist, you may have hundreds of pieces you want to show the world.

Should I get into a gallery?

Getting into a gallery is a great step toward selling your art and feeling more serious as an artist. Competition is fierce, but if you are able to make your work stand out and generate attention, you can get your art into the gallery of your dreams. Check gallery websites for submission policies.

How do I start a digital gallery?

Create an online gallery website. Having an online presence for your work is extremely important. You can invite other local artists, or other artists with similar styles, to showcase art on a website in a digital gallery. Make sure to include the professional contact information of each artist on the website.

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