For a budding artist, learning how to sell paintings to galleries can be grueling. But it can also be the benchmark that launches an artist’s career.
The standard method of placing artwork in galleries works a lot like applying for a job. The artist searches for galleries in the area that seem like a good fit for their work, emails & mails each one a portfolio, and then waits. If they’re lucky, the artist gets a call from the gallery to discuss the new partnership. More often, however, the artist gets a rejection notice, or worse, hears nothing at all.
The truth is, gallery owners are extremely busy. They have to court artists, curate the gallery, plan events, order frames, ship art, print fliers and cater to members, guests and investors. This makes it incumbent on the artist to get the gallery owner’s attention and give them a reason to set aside time to consider the artist’s work.
Luckily there are ways for artists to make their submissions stand out. Here are four great tips on how to sell artwork to galleries.
- Target the Right Galleries: You wouldn’t pitch an article about dirtbike racing to Better Homes and Gardens, so don’t pitch abstract art to a realist gallery, or paintings to a gallery of photography. Once you’ve identified appropriate institutions, do your homework. Do they treat their artists well? Do they do their own promotions through advertising or direct mail campaigns? And of course, do they pay their artists in a timely manner?
- Network, Network, Network: Like most industries, it’s all about who you know. If you don’t have many artists in your rolodex, go to workshops and introduce yourself. Offer to put your new artist friends in touch with collectors who may like their work. Few artists will forget a favor like that. If you meet a more established artist, ask if they would consider critiquing your work and offer to pay them.
- Use your Contacts to Court Galleries: When the time is right, ask an artist friend if they would tell their gallery about you. Also ask if they would send your portfolio for you. A gallery is much more likely to open an envelope from one of their artists. (Make sure to pay for shipping.) If you don’t hear anything after a week, call and ask the gallery if they received your submission. If the gallery rejects your work, ask if they know of other galleries that would be better suited for your work.
- Try the Frame Shop Method: If one of your target galleries has their own frame shop, bring some of your work in to be framed. Once the attendant has handled your work, ask if their gallery might be interested in viewing more, and offer to send a portfolio. It may sound sneaky, but it’s a great backdoor method to making contact with a great gallery.
Also, learn how to sell artwork online! Platforms like Society6.com are super helpful in that respect.
Rejection will be a regular part of the journey. Stay diligent and stay positive.