Saturday, 26 April 2014

How to Approach Art Galleries

What they don’t teach you at art school: the dos and don’ts for approaching art galleries 

I’ve helped a lot of artists approach galleries over the years. I’ve also received a lot of artist CVs for my own shows and an exhibition organiser can be seriously put-off if they are not approached in the right way.

This is particularly so with large organisations and institutions, whose staff are extremely busy and inundated with submissions from hopeful artists every day.

Here’s a guide on some of the issues that could make the difference between your submission being considered or banished to the recycle bin in one swift click of a mouse.

Submitting Your Work to Galleries
  • Each reality has different needs and expectations. One of the first things you should do before approaching galleries is check their website thoroughly for instructions on how to submit your work.
  • Always follow these instructions to the letter, otherwise your CV might find itself in the aforementioned bin.
  • Check that the style and medium of your work is suitable for the gallery you want to approach. To get a feel for their tastes/themes, look through the gallery’s history of shows. If they deal in art works that are light years away from your own portfolio, don’t submit your work. If uncertain, you can always call the gallery to find out more.
  • Some galleries prefer to hunt the artists down themselves and will not evaluate direct submissions at all. They will usually state this clearly on their website. However tempting, do not contact these gallery owners. They’re busy people and will not appreciate you clogging up their mailbox.
  • With galleries that don’t provide specific instructions, it’s a pretty safe bet that they are open to being contacted directly. Before you do, make a phone call, so you can get the name and the correct e-mail address of the person you need to contact. People like being addressed by their name and it also shows you’re willing to do a bit of groundwork.

Sending Images
  • When sending images always make sure they are high quality. Never send blurred, grainy or dark images.
  • Always follow the galleries instructions on image resolution and size. If in doubt, or no specific instructions are provided, make sure they are of a good quality but not too big, particularly if you’re sending several images at the same time.
  • Unless requested, avoid sending images of your work taken on walls or in frames. This might be fine for an online store, but it may not be for the gallery. It can look unprofessional and also draws attention away from your work.
  • Do not take pictures of works under glass: the glare and reflections will make it difficult to see the quality of your work.
  • Unless instructed otherwise, always name your images stating the:
·         Year;
·         Title of work;
·         Medium;
·         Dimensions.

Alternatively, list your attachments at the end of the e-mail, stating the name of the file and all the relevant details. It might seem a bit long-winded, but it’s very useful for the people who have to sort through the images. And, the gallery owner will thank you for it!

"do not mention that part-time 
job at the local chip shop."

Polishing your CV

Your CV is a crucial presentation that should be prepared with great care. I’ve seen a lot of young and not so young artists get things wrong. 

Here's some tips on what you should and shouldn't include:
  •         Include any relevant art-related jobs and experience, but do not mention that part-time job you had at the local chip shop. This kind of information may be fine for a normal job application but not for a gallery owner.
  •         If you have had a lot of experience, be selective about the shows you list in your CV. Some of the more important galleries may be put off by the fact you did a show in a pub, so you might want to avoid mentioning it.
" a gallery owner wants proof that you're pro-active, productive and reliable." 
  • If necessary, tailor your submissions to suit the different types of gallery/organisation.
  • Split your exhibitions into two sections: Solo Shows and Group Shows, this makes your CV more immediate and easier to read.
  • Remember, a gallery owner wants proof that you’re pro-active, productive and reliable. They also like to see that your work is endorsed and exhibited by others on a regular basis. Too many gaps between exhibitions could be a potential turn-off. The more you exhibit, the more chance you have of being taken seriously.
When listing your exhibitions always include the following information:
  •     Year;
  •     Name of Exhibition;
  •     Name of gallery, organisation, institution organising the exhibition;
  •     Venue (where applicable) and country.
  •     Name(s) of the curators.
Be honest, accurate and check this information carefully before sending your submission. The gallery owner may well look you up online.
"a gallery will be more willing to invest in you if you’ve got some solid documentation and press coverage behind you


Another thing I've noticed about many of the artist CVs, is that they don’t include a bibliography. 

Any press articles, critiques and catalogue texts that mention your name will make for a well-rounded CV. Also, a gallery will be more willing to invest in you if you’ve got some solid documentation and press coverage behind you.

When listing this information always include the following:
  • Date of publication;
  • Name of publication/exhibition catalogue;
  • Issue number, if applicable;
  • Title of article;
  • Name of journalist/critic/writer.
The great thing about today’s technology, is you can also create hyperlinks to the articles, making it quick and easy for the gallery owner to find your reference material.

"Never make exaggerated claims or make your work appear to be something it’s not."

Artist Statement
  • Your artist statement should be clear and accurate. This is not a place to blow your own horn. Never make exaggerated claims or make your work appear to be something it’s not.
  • Explain the concepts in a concise and simple manner, avoiding any complex, specialist terms, unless absolutely necessary.
  • Where possible, avoid the use of foreign words, unless they are the specific industry names or terms.
  • Explain your reasons for working the way you did and why you made those decisions.
  • Don’t get too philosophical. Keep on topic and be objective about your work and practice.
Obviously, your artist statement will change over time. Go back to it regularly, and re-write it if necessary. Even if you don’t use what you've written, it's a great way to assess where you’re at and where you’re heading.

Covering Letter
  • Remember, you are approaching a business. Like all communication in the business world, do it professionally.
  • Write a letter, don’t write the e-mail like a text message and don't use smileys, Internet slang, or abbreviations like ‘U’ and ‘2’  – believe me, this happens often. It comes across as lazy and sloppy.  Not everyone is forgiving and there are still a lot of purists out there who will bin your e-mail at the very sight of it.

Don't do this: “hi I would like 2 exhibit my work in ur show heres my artist cv and a link 2 my website" 

If a gallery or organisation is going to invest in you, then you also need to show that you can work in a professional manner and that you’re prepared to make the effort. After all, if you don’t care, why should they?

Lay-out, Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation
  • Once you’ve got all that out of the way, you will need to check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. Your submission will be better received if it’s well-written. 
"The right dose of bold print, underlining, spacing and bullet points will make your CV easier on the eye."
  • Read it out-loud, does your covering letter and statement flow right? If you can, get an extra pair of eyes to look it over too.
  • Look objectively at the lay-out and content. Is it clear and easy to read?
  • Use a simple, readable font (Verdana, Georgia and Trebuchet MS are good choices, among others), they are clean and modern and much easier to read on screen – they also look pretty good in print too. Do some research online and find the one that works best for you.
  • The right dose of bold print, underlining, spacing and bullet points will make your CV easier on the eye – just don’t overdo it!
  • If you know how, and the submission process allows, you could also put all your information and images into a nice PDF presentation, a bit like an art catalogue.
I hope this guide has been useful. Obviously, there are lots of different situations and gallery realities out there, but I think I’ve covered most of the essentials.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions fire away!

Bastian Contrarian

No comments:

Post a Comment