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Getting represented by a gallery


The beginning of the end.

There are two good friends: one is a photographer, the other a chef. The photographer wants to get together with his friend and share his most recent work. The two decide on a cafe and meet shortly after. Upon arriving their conversation begins immediately. Somewhere in the middle, the photographer removes a freshly printed portfolio from his dark leather messenger bag and hands it to the chef. Silence.

The chef is so wrapped up in the images that he manages to remain silent for a full ten minutes.

"These are amazing!" The silence is finally broken. "Where did you take these?" the chef asks.

"Some were shot outdoors, but most were shot in studio," replies the photographer.

"You must have an amazing camera," the chef adds.

The conversation shifts several times before the two decide to leave. Before they do, however, the chef insists on preparing dinner for the photographer the following evening.

"So long as I don't miss Wheel Of Fortune," the photographer jokes.

They depart in agreement.

The next night, the chef prepares a full spread and when the photographer arrives they waste no time. They begin with soup, bread and wine. A light pasta dish is next, followed a heavier, yet fair plate of roasted chicken. For dessert: homemade limoncello.

Needless to say, there wasn't an abnormal amount of conversation being had during this feast. However, as the two sit fully satisfied, the photographer voices how much he enjoyed the meal.

"That was amazing!" the photographer said with his arms spread wide. "Are these your recipes?"

"Mostly, although I had to borrow one for the penne arrabiata," the chef replied.

"Well, you must have amazing pots!"




Who You Know

How much of it is who you know? I'd say...80%. It seemed too cynical to say more and I couldn't wholeheartedly say it's less. There are an innumerable amount of artists out there that have and never will make a career out of doing what they love and what they're good at. Then there are the artists who you see over and over again in the media. You could argue that the artists of the former group don't get "out there" enough and that perhaps the latter group are much more marketable. Believe it or not, there are things that you do have control of and a big portion of that as an artist is your public persona. Be professional, punctual and follow-through on promises.

If you feel you don't know the "right people", how do you put yourself out there? Here are a few Dos:

  1. Go to gallery and museum openings. Get more out of it than some free wine and hors d'oeuvres. It's a free education in social behavior of collector-types if nothing else.
  2. Meet the artist* if you can. Ask them about their current work and if it seems appropriate, how they they secured the exhibit. *I would suggest doing research on the artist prior to going.
  3. Make a list of galleries with addresses that suit your work and would be a potential match. Fully qualify galleries and dealers before you send them examples of your work. See #4 below.
  4. If you're a painter/printmaker/whatever and you don't feel confident in your graphic design skills (be honest), hire or do a trade with a graphic designer to have them do it for you. Most importantly, carry cards on you at all times. 
  5. If you're an introvert (there's nothing wrong with that) rally a group of friends and family that will market the hell out of you and your work.
  6. Find a mentor in the field you want to pursue and stay in regular contact with them.
I used to interview and hire interns at the gallery and unfortunately, my list of Don'ts are a bit too real (and comical):
  1. Don't go to interviews dressed inappropriately. For instance, a skintight see-through white waffle t-shirt is not appropriate to work in a gallery much less interview for a position - especially if you have a large rack. Neither is coming to an interview fifteen minutes late with a rat's nest on the back of your head - brush your hair.
  2. Don't show up late.
  3. Don't show up unannounced and solicit a show during a normal work day, gallery opening and/or any other function looking for a job or show.
  4. Don't send your work to galleries that will never exhibit it. Meaning, the gallery down the street that shows marine paintings is never going to represent you no matter how many times you email or send them your portfolio. This may seem like common sense but I got so many solicitations for work that I couldn't show (I dealt American Impressionism <more specifically the era 1890-1940> and market established contemporary). I felt bad for the hundreds of dollars worth of wasted mail I got over the years.
  5. Don't downplay or bad mouth your work. Ever.
Those are my most basic Dos and Don'ts of the industry. There are tons more specifics that go into areas of dealing, curating, researching and creating fine art but those are meant for one on one conversations. I take questions - preferably over hot chocolate.