Galleries, Shows, and Other Opportunities to Show Your Work

Gallery show sculpture

Exhibition visitors. Photo by: Jeff Taylor – uncommon photography

Today there are many opportunities for artists to show and share their work – you just need to be creative! Before you embark on choosing a venue to show your work you need to answer one simple question – “Is my customer likely to visit the venue either in the real or virtual worlds?”

When you talk to a person on the street and tell them you are an artist, one of the questions that they will likely ask is, “What gallery is your work in?” Being in a gallery is a large part of many artists marketing efforts and for some it says, “I have arrived”.

The reasons for having your work in a gallery can range from pure vanity, adding to your resume to selling your art. Hopefully one of your main goals will be to get new customers while building your brand.

There are two main parts of displaying your work in a gallery, the presentation or exhibition part and the business part. The exhibition part is about preparing a body of work, displaying and merchandising it properly and providing a great experience to the gallery visitors. The business part is about choosing the right venue, with the right customers, having the right agreements in place and marketing your work so you end up with a profit.

Traditional venues to display your work

The traditional venues to display your work are art galleries or museums. Increasing more artists display and sell their work on online galleries. These traditional venues include:

  • A gallery section in your studio
  • Your own gallery or retail location
  • A shared space such as an artist’s coop
  • A museum, library or other public space
  • An independent gallery
  • College and university galleries
  • Online in a gallery on your website or with online gallery/portfolio websites
  • And don’t forget the Member Portfolio on the International Sculpture Center’s website!
gallery visitors sculpture

Exhibition visitors. Photo by: Jeff Taylor – uncommon photography

The traditional gallery approach

There are numerous books written on how to get your work exhibited in a gallery. The process goes something like this:

  1. Get a body of work together.
  2. Develop your artist’s statement for the work.
  3. Do some research on the galleries to see if there is a fit. This is where networking, referrals and getting to know gallery owners becomes very important.
  4. Make an appointment before you approach a gallery and be respectful of the gallery owner’s time.
  5. Show them your work.
  6. If the gallery wants to represent your work then work out a business arrangement or….
  7. Prepare yourself for rejection and move on to the next opportunity.

Things to consider with gallery representation

Before you enter into any relationship with a gallery make sure that you understand what you are getting into. If you are unsure of a particular gallery relationship, talk to your legal advisor or someone who is knowledgeable about the gallery business.

Here are some basic things to consider with gallery representation:

  • Do you have a big enough body of work to support the gallery?
  • Is the gallery appropriate for your art and the gallery’s customer base?
  • What is the gallery / artist split?
  • What expenses will be paid by the artist, by the gallery?
  • Is there a written contract and do you understand it?
  • Who is responsible for insurance and in what amounts?
  • Who is responsible for the delivery of your art to the gallery?
  • Who is responsible for set up / take down of your gallery show?
  • What dates / hours will you need to be at the gallery?
  • What if a customer tries to come directly to buy from you?
  • How long will the relationship last (CONTRACTUALLY)?
  • Who will promote and market your show?
  • Does a relationship with the gallery help grow your brand?

Nontraditional venues to show your work

You need to be creative and think about nontraditional venues to show and sell your work. One of the advantages of these venues is that you may have less competition from other artists or art works.

Some nontraditional venues to show your art include:

  • Home Furnishing Stores
  • Furniture Stores
  • Office Buildings
  • Restaurants
  • Retailers
  • Just about any other place you can think of to display and sell your art. I have a student with automotive themed sculpture who sells his art in an auto repair store!

And Don’t Forget…

Not everybody who views your work in an online or in person gallery will make a purchase. Use these opportunities to develop a list of prospects. Make it easy for people who have seen your work to connect with you as well as easy for you to connect with them. Some ways you can make this process easier include:

  • A signup sheet for visitors to provide their name and email
  • Appropriate advertising materials which list your contact information with your website, email, phone, etc.
  • Advertising your social media presence and inviting others to connect with you on social media
  • Show cards, tags, brochures or flyers at your shows
  • Possible use of QR Codes on marketing materials and individual work descriptions

Remember: Make it easy for people who have seen your work to contact you, to find out more and to keep up to date on you and your art.

The bottom line(s)…

There are a lot of ways to show your work from the traditional gallery to many not so traditional venues and methods.  Take some time to explore the various alternatives where you can showcase your art and experiment to see what works best for you.  Good Luck!

By Neil McKenzie

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