Friday, April 06, 2007

One More Time, With Feeling (seriously)

A while back there was a question in a thread about how an artist got a show with the gallery. I don't discuss specifics about individual artists here, but that question got me to thinking about the reality of the situation, and I figured it's time to revive a few ideas already shared and perhaps dispel a few ideas still floating out there. Also prompting this was an email I received on the topic. It's one of the most charming emails I've gotten asking for advice, but I honestly cannot afford to respond to each such email, so I'll work from it to flesh out my thoughts here:

I write this fully aware that many versions of this letter are sent to you in some variation by other versions of what I am: Artist With Questions. For introducing dialogue, I suppose this is your punishment. I follow with interest the advice you put out and the conversations that follow on your blog and should thank you for extending yourself. Thank you. I think it's generous and rare for the Chelsified to reach out to the art-stricken with their unwieldy ways, gooey hearts, and dirty fingernails. On that note, perhaps you could advise me as to who to approach with my work. I feel fairly gall-ridden and brazen asking this of you (hence the embarrassment of adjectives), but frustration trumps humility finally. I am not asking you to consider me for your gallery, no, rather, I am looking for one of those signs shaped like a finger pointing somewhere, preferably in an appropriate direction. I am a Brooklyn artist having a hard time getting anyone to even look at my work. (I am legion.) So, please look at my portfolio and respond when possible.
Again, charming, but in my opinion this approach neglects to take on the number one most important part of getting a gallery: doing one's homework (oneself). If you want my very best advice for getting a gallery (i.e., if no one is breaking down your studio door to get you to work with them), then here it is:

  1. Do some honest and serious thinking about where your artwork belongs in the art market. You'd be amazed at how many emerging artists think the big galleries that only work with proven sellers would be a good fit for them. Many of those galleries have no interest in developing unknown talent. Approaching them is a waste of your time if you're not already somewhat well known. Beyond that, know exactly where your work falls within the dialog. If you're not making bleeding edge work, then don't approach the galleries known for breaking all the rules. Understand what your potential market is like and find the galleries that target that market. This takes work and research but will pay off your entire career.
  2. Do some serious research to find the program that best fits your artwork within that market. Generally there will be more than one gallery targeting your personal market. One very impressive artist I know spent months visiting galleries after moving to New York looking for this very fit, and gradually narrowed down the programs she felt were inline with her artwork. She chose the right one and has a gallery now. Again: work and research.
  3. Don't make mistakes that will discourage you. You'll encounter enough of that without bringing it on yourself. For example, we had an artist come in with his CD the other day, asking us to look at it, assuring us he was the best artist out there. We asked him, as we always do at that point, if he was familiar with our program. He said "No." We took the CD anyway, just because he insisted, but the work was nothing at all like the art we show. Even if it had been, we already didn't like him (because he didn't take the time to get to know us before asking us to consider him). He wasted his time and money, and our time. More than that he consumed a chunk of our goodwill toward other artists (experience that enough times and you begin to shut down toward the cold call approach). I know another Chelsea gallerist who (at one time) would insist an artist come and view at least three exhibitions in the space before even approaching the subject of considering the artist's own work. It might sound cruel or off-putting, but it's actually very solid advice.
  4. Work toward a short list. And Be Very Honest with yourself. There's no point in doing this if you're not honest about it...if I had a dollar for every artist who told me they thought they belonged in the hottest gallery out there (when they clearly didn't), I'd buy you all a drink (and I mean you ALL). Once you have a short list of galleries that are a good match strike up a conversation with those galleries. You may not gain initial access to the dealers, but in some galleries you can. In these conversation, be generous and insightful. Demonstrate that you understand what the gallery is doing and that you like it. Do all of this before you broach the subject of your own work. Consider doing it and leaving it at that for a while. Seriously (this goes back to being generous...let that be the impression you leave). You're looking for a short cut through the defenses the gallery puts up to screen out artists who don't understand the gallery's program. Demonstrate that you do. That might mean offering an insightful comment about the current exhibition or asking about an artist in the program you like. As I've noted before, if you can't honestly say something positive about the current show or other artists in the gallery, this is most definitely NOT the gallery for you.
  5. Once you have an "in," so to speak, then let the gallery know you're interested in having them consider your work. Again, don't expect this to happen all in one day. It can, but if you don't read the signs on a day the gallerist is too busy or recovering from a hangover or whatever, all your work up to this point might be for nothing. I'd recommend following up a good impression later with an email, noting that you enjoyed the conversation (remind them of something you noted about the program to jog their memory) and that you'd be interested in their opinion about your work. Send them a few jpgs and/or point to your website. The key at this point is to tie it all together: 1) demonstrate that you understand the gallery program; 2) make clear that you enjoyed the dialog; and 3) THEN suggest that your work seems like a good match to you.
Now this is not a surefire approach by no means (nothing is), but I've seen it work better than any other approach. What you don't want to do is attempt to take shortcuts like blanketing all of Chelsea with your CD (I actually once received a cold call package with our address on the envelope, but a competing gallery's address on the cover letter...not an impressive introduction). Oh, and finally...never, never, never, never, never...walk into a gallery with your actual artwork in tow. Let me repeat that: NEVER. Regardless of how convinced you are that if the dealer could only see it in person, they'd immediately offer you representation, this approach smacks of desperation and actually suggests you don't value your own art all that much (otherwise why would you trudge it around to expose it to complete strangers, let alone the elements). Believe me, dealers do not respect this approach. Don't do it.

I can never tell if this particular topic is more discouraging than helpful (I've discussed it in lectures and usually it seems to deflate folks more than anything). I don't mean it to be discouraging...I'm seriously offering the best advice I know to give here. I seriously hope it helps.



Blogger Mark said...

You truely are a special guy Edward, not in the "special needs" way mind you. In my experience it's all about the relationship, as it should be, it's a family situation at it's best and a gallerist has to feel they can sell the work in the end it is business. Some galleries and grant organizations still require slides, ugh.. how do you feel about slides/cd/websites when looking at work, a studio visit or exhibit being the best of course.

4/06/2007 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

not in the "special needs" way mind you

depends on the day...

how do you feel about slides/cd/websites when looking at work

To initiate a conversation about the work via email...jpgs attachment and link to a website is your best approach...via package, CD with at least three printouts, but not more than five.

Keep slides for other uses.

4/06/2007 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

uh...should add...unless you know for a fact that gallery prefers slides.

4/06/2007 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous karl zipser said...


This sounds like very good advice and fits well with what I have read elsewhere about selling in general -- do the homework, find out what you can do for the prospect, not just how he/she can help you.

What I am wondering, though, is why the dealer should really care what kind of approach the artist makes. What you are basically saying is that artists that make the dealers feel good have a much better chance. I can believe that -- you are only human -- but it doesn't make the dealers seem all that decisive. I think the dealer could do a more objective job at selecting good work by completely disregarding all the brown nosing that you are encouraging artists to do, not letting the artist's personality lubricate the transaction.

Also, I find it a bit strange that artists should have any chance at approaching galleries at all. Isn't it the dealer's job to travel all around the world to find the best art out there? If you are doing your homework, it seems that walk-in artists would have no place whatsoever. You would already have found the people you want to represent by going out and finding them, right?

4/06/2007 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Molly Stevens said...

What about following up?

Let's say you actually get someone to look at your website, or get someone who says they will look at your website, or you get an actual studio visit, but there's no immediate "I love you" but no immediate "I hate you" either.

Thanks for being so generous with your blog.

4/06/2007 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

You're not wrong, Karl. The galleries are out there looking for themselves, but the caveat on which I opened the discussion was that you're not being approached, so you're taking the initiative yourself.

What you are basically saying is that artists that make the dealers feel good have a much better chance.

It's not about making the gallery feel good (well, not only about that), as much as it is distinguishing yourself from the hundreds (and I do mean hundreds) of other artists vying for the gallerist's attention. Again, we're not talking about the artists 52 dealers are all wining and dining, trying to win them over. We're talking about artists who, for what ever reason, haven't gotten the attention they feel they deserve yet, but don't want to simply sit by and wait until it comes. There's nothing wrong with going after representation. Sometimes a gallery that's perfect for you simply hasn't happened upon your work yet. Sitting there waiting might work for you...then again it might not. Follow your gut. As for "brown nosing" I'll repeat...if you can't honestly offer some positive feedback on the gallery, it's not the gallery for you. In other words, if it feels like brown nosing, as opposed to an interesting conversation you're happy to have, you're in the wrong place.

What about following up?

We're really talking about a professional relationship here, so the general business rules apply. Send a thank you of sorts (email is fine) and if you hear nothing within a few weeks (and galleries have a wide range of considerations to make with regards to scheduling, so no news isn't necessarily bad news) or a month, follow-up again. If you're growing anxious and simply want an answer, say that. But note that this makes it easy for the gallery to pass, when they might have still been considering the work. It sucks, I know, but galleries are looking for those perfect fits and sometimes that requires time to sort things out.

4/06/2007 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

re karl's comment above:
I thought the same thing about what he calls the brown-nosing. If you go chat up the dealer, compliment him/her on the shows, etc. without mentioning your own work until after you have established a "relationship," isn't the dealer hip to that? Doesn't she know that that's what you're doing in the first place, and why should she fall for the flattery? I agree absolutely about knowing the gallery's program, but this whole buttering them up approach seems phony. Ed, when it happens to you, you don't feel that it's phony?


4/06/2007 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, you addressed my question while I was writing it. Thanks.


4/06/2007 10:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Complete off-topic question here, but do you have any feelings/opinion on the whole edward goldman (and matthew kangas) thing that tyler green has been discussing? Would you maybe do a post on it? This thread is great by the way, thanks, just asking about a future possible post.


4/06/2007 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

f you go chat up the dealer, compliment him/her on the shows, etc. without mentioning your own work until after you have established a "relationship," isn't the dealer hip to that?

I've expereinced it both ways. From the artist who was simply trying to butter me up and from the artist who actually liked what we showed and wanted to discuss the context of the gallery.

[I see you responded, but I want to note one more thing here]

This part of what I'm advising is not entirely for the gallerist or his/her ego, mind you. It's also for you, the artist, to help you determine if you actually enjoy the dialog. It's simply one part of your research. Say you make the effort and offer some feedback and the gallerist is a jerk to you or strikes you as somewhat less than the brightest bulb in the chandelier. That's good information to have before you invest too much in approaching them, no?

4/06/2007 10:24:00 AM  
Anonymous jec said...

... no news isn't necessarily bad news

I know of so many instances where artists sent slides and didn't hear from the gallery for years, then was suddenly contacted for inclusion in a show. You never know what's happening with those materials you sent out.

Great advice Ed.

4/06/2007 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Noddy Turnell said...

Great advice. I would suggest looking at the cv of artists who are working along your lines and checking out the galleries they have shown in. I'ts like dating. Personalities have to click to a degree. I personally do not want to embark on a relationship with a scruffy curmudgeon with no respect for social etiquette. Myabe thats why I'm not represented. lol

i like to research a show before going to see it and usually have some questions in mind before i get there. i will include a postcard with a picture of myself with any material I send becaus i want them to know i've been there more than once and been civil. i was thinking i should introduce myself upon entering the gallery as i would upon entering someones home. I've had open studios and folk have brushed past me to critique the art then leave. It doesn't feel good. What do you think Edward is that a good idea? i do say hello now and end up introducing myself after a little conversation. it helps to know who i am talking to.

4/06/2007 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous karl zipser said...


A decade ago I spent some weeks roaming the NY gallery scene and I thought it was pretty bad, for the most part. I saw some nice Egon Schiele drawings, but that doesn't exactly count, right? The galleries I saw on 57th street had low quality work, I was shocked. That's how I have felt about galleries in most important art centers. Is the problem with galleries similar to what you say is the problem with artists -- 90% bad? Or do you think that artists simply need to buckle down and learn to love the contemporary programs because they are indeed mostly good?

Is the general impression that the art world is just bursting at the seams with great gallery programs? Are most artists happy with the programs they are in?

In another thread you said "If the art world is lacking ..." it is not only the dealer's fault. Okay, but if the art world is really lacking, might it not be the case that artists will need to settle for galleries with programs that they don't completely respect? What if an artist with work that you considered very good came to you and said, "Ed, I respect you, but your program sucks." Would you show them the door, or thank them for their honesty and show the work on its own merits?

The point about brown-nosing not really being brown-nosing and about getting to know your dealer make perfect sense. That's exactly the way it is when applying to graduate school as well. You even make the art world sound quasi-rational ;-)

I'd be curious to know, what are the characteristics of those 52 artists that you dealers are wining and dining?

4/06/2007 11:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I show in several galleries in several cities (including NY) and generally don't find the "programs" of these galleries to be that great. This means that I don't like, or "get" or appreciate a lot of the other work they show. But that's my opinion of most galleries, even the "top" ones; they show a range of stuff, a lot of it not so great. I don't think an artist has to relate to all or even most of the work a gallery shows in order to (want to) show with them. In fact, it's not even possible if you're fairly discriminating.

To be perfectly honest, Ed, I don't like a lot of the work you show but you seem like such a thoughtful, generous, honest and good person that I would be happy to show with your gallery. Is that a contradiction?

anon ny artist

4/06/2007 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

OK, Karl, I'll cut through the BS and tell you what I really think, since you're so good at pulling it apart anyway.

There is no perfect program out there. Just like there's no perfect addition to an existing program. There are mature compromises made toward the mutual benefit of gallerist and artist. It's a relationship, and, like all relationships, works best when there's at least a kernel of genuine admiration in both directions, trust, and good old fashion commitment to work to make it as good as it can be.

What if an artist with work that you considered very good came to you and said, "Ed, I respect you, but your program sucks." Would you show them the door, or thank them for their honesty and show the work on its own merits?

I'd question why they respect me if they believe my program sucks. In this context, I am my program.

The point about brown-nosing not really being brown-nosing and about getting to know your dealer make perfect sense.

I sense irony.

OK, so you want to know why getting to know the dealer personally a bit helps (and why talking with them about the program is your best approach toward that goal, other than the obvious fact that they're open to the public because they want that dialog)? Because if you send your images cold, you end up in a heap of other artists, many just as good as you, and in that context (with equally good work available) the decision to work with this or that artist includes other considerations. If you have a dialog with the gallerist already, you have a leg up over the competition. Duh.

Also, what you're not seeming to read between the line here is blaring in the background.

OK, I'll just say it.

Given the choice, dealers don't want to work with nightmare prima donnas. Sometimes the work truly is good enough to make that sacrifice (i.e., to tolerate an egomaniac freak show of a pompous ass), but usually, there are other options. Knowing that you already like an artist increases the warm and fuzzies you'll associate with their work when you finally see some. It's a human relationship...not a science. These things count.

To be perfectly honest, Ed, I don't like a lot of the work you show but you seem like such a thoughtful, generous, honest and good person that I would be happy to show with your gallery. Is that a contradiction?

To me is it. You should consider context as more important than that. I'm not saying an artist should like every other artist in a program, but if you don't at least like most of them, that gallery's not a good choice for you. You want to benefit from the context, saleswise and curatorially. You want collector X or curator Z to reconsider any preliminary hesistations they might have about your work because they respect the other choices that gallerist makes. Otherwise, you're not getting all that you can get from your gallery.

4/06/2007 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Sunil said...

Your advice is well and good and very few dealers would actually take the time out to write this kind of stuff for us. That said, very few galleries actually explicitly state their mission or their objectives. You might counter that by saying that the artist should just go to two or three exhibitions of a gallery and then they would understand - I think it is more than two or three visits, in fact to clearly understand the raison d'être of a gallery (other than for the fact that they would also like to make money like you and me), it might take a couple of years...
I think that if galleries did a better job of at least displaying/communicating their mission and the kind of work that they would represent then aspiring artists like me could target and research better.
By the way, I am glad that you posted snippets of the letter that you got from the ‘other aspiring artist’. I was planning on writing a similar one to some dealers and have now decided against it... I still stand by my ‘gallery-objective-mission’ rant though.

Thank you for taking the time to write this out.

By the way, I liked Chris Lowry’s work at your gallery. I was there a couple pf weeks back.

4/06/2007 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm sorry I missed you when you stopped in Sunil. Thanks for the kind words about Chris's show.

You're right that 2-3 shows may not tell you all that much, which is why researching what seems like an interesting gallery (on their website) is a very good idea as well.

4/06/2007 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

Missions change with time, sunil. Art is always in flux and a good gallery is aware of that.

You may not love everything a gallery shows but each person's taste is different. The more important question is do you respect all the work? So many artists like work which is like their own. A gallerist generally looks a bit deeper than that. As a curator I often include work which is not my taste but it is always work I respect.

Interesting post, Ed.

4/06/2007 12:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With the internet, this job of research is so much easier than it used to be. Also, (to sunil) go to art fairs if you can. If you're near Chicago, go to Art Chicago and there are some on the west coast. That's a good way of getting a feel for a gallery without making a bunch of trips to NY (although you should make a few if you want to show here).

Thanks Ed for all the time and thought you give to this.

anon ny artist

4/06/2007 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous karl zipser said...

I sense irony.

No irony in the place you sensed it, Ed. I mean what I said. It's obvious now that you pointed it out -- brown nosing and genuine dialogue can sometimes have superficial similarity, but that doesn't take away the value of genuine dialogue. Your point seems to be that if the artist is trying getting into a gallery by brown nosing, then the artist is really the fool. If they have a real place in the gallery, then they have no reason to brown nose, and every reason to have a serious dialogue.

It also follows that if an artist can't find a gallery he or she likes, then the artist has got a big problem.

In my limited experience I have found your advice to be on target. The dealers I have worked with (and even been wined and dine by, now that I think of it) weren't people I felt I needed to fool or anything. It was just as you said, they were people I felt comfortable working with, and that's why I worked with them. To wine and dine with them wasn't some kind of manipulation, it was just natural. I guess what you are really saying in this post is that the artists have got to view the dealers (the ones they are interested in) as people with a serious aesthetic commitment, not as targets for advertising.

Ed, do you think that dealers are really a form of artist? I have heard it said again and again that dealers are just shopkeepers. But that just doesn't ring true to me. My feeling is that if conceptual art and installation art can be art, then why is running a gallery not art? And if it is art, why don't dealers call themselves artists?

4/06/2007 12:29:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

I've narrowed my list down to about ten galleries that I visit on a regular basis. Whenever I show up I bring donuts. None of them has shown any interest in my work, but they're always happy to see me. And I've noticed that a number of them have been putting on weight.

4/06/2007 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Edward -- Excellent entry, and wonderful follow-ups. Thanks for this. Since you're being so honest and forward, I hope you won't mind two questions which might be difficult.

Some artists have an "artist statement" or an "elevator pitch," for better or worse. Do galleries? Or does someone just need to look at the art, the exhibitions, the artists and the website, and try to develop a gut feeling?

When someone has a chance to talk to the gallery director in person, is it ever appropriate to ask them about their "rolodex," or at least about their business practices, marketing/publicity attitudes, and/or their network of patrons, curators, critics and others?

4/06/2007 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Eva said...

Edward, I think all that you’ve written here makes a ton of sense, but I would have never known half of it till I ran a gallery myself. Suddenly people were knocking at my door, wanting a show, but many of them had no clue what I liked, what I was interested in. I was open enough to hear what most of them had to say about their work – because I make work too and know how hard it can be just to get to that conversation - but when I started in on my aims for my space, my mission, whatever, so often their eyes would glaze over.

The interest has to be mutual. The artist is there not just because they’ve made work but because they are interested in art, period, and want to see what is out there. It is an ongoing conversation and you’re right, it is a relationship. It’s not about brown-nosing, it’s about interest and going forward. You certainly don’t have to love everything but you at least ought to be aware of what this gallerist is doing. After awhile, you can assess a style or slant to the gallery.

4/06/2007 12:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post sparked some questions I have:

What about group shows? Is it good to show in as many as possible? Because it will only help the artist develop his/her craft each time s/he shows? Don't galleries usually put artists in group shows to gauge the interests first?

I am wondering what people think about dealers who sleep with their artists, and artists who sleep with their dealers. Is it going too far? I feel like this is unspoken, but happens all too often. Also critics and artists...?

As to the aesthetic of an gallery and the importance of an artist doing research: I think we have to remember that aesthetics is still very much personal. Sometimes the most interesting galleries show vary different type of artists, so you never know. I don't think it makes sense to think that the artists who sent in very different type of work than a gallery shows just don't understand a gallery. It's still personal taste afterall.

4/06/2007 01:00:00 PM  
Anonymous karl zipser said...

It's a human relationship...not a science. . . If you have a dialog with the gallerist already, you have a leg up over the competition. Duh.

Interesting point comparing art and science, Ed. In the Arts Recognition and Talent Search that I particpated in when a teenager, we had to send in slides without our names. The point was that the selection of the best artists should be made on the basis of the work alone. In science it is standard procedure to collect data "blind" or "double blind," that is, with as much dissociation between the thing being measured and possible distracting context.

What you are writing here about selecting artists makes me wonder, are you doing it exactly the wrong way? I don't just mean you, I mean all of us? If we get to know the artists, can we still judge the work objectively? Sometimes when I am fond of an artist and also the work, I ask myself, am I mixing the person and the art?

The problem, obviously, is that people coming into the gallery are not going to have that relationship to the artist that the dealer does. The art shopper going from one gallery to the next in a sense sees all the work cold. It makes sense to me that the dealer should evaluate it that way too, at least at first. By not doing so, you give up something you can never recover.

We all know that some artists can weave magic when talking about their art. Other artists put their foot in their mouth. The dealer will be influenced by this, but not the buyer, right?

All this suggests to me that the dealers should do everything possible to evaluate the work separately from the artist, at least initially. It seems so easy to do. Simply refuse to talk to artists about their work until you have looked at it in digital form, say.

4/06/2007 02:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Karl-you have such a good point. I dislike it when I am in group shows with an artist that I think has lower quality work/vision but that I know for a fact has *amazing chat up the work skills*.

Oh gosh how I dislike those artists, especially because like you said-the buyer does not see that magical quality so it is a disservice to all, ultimately.

Ed, thank you for taking the time to write such a generous post....


4/06/2007 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

quick answers...things got busy around here:

Some artists have an "artist statement" or an "elevator pitch," for better or worse. Do galleries?

Yes, some. I'm working on one to be ready for public by September. It takes a while, and then, as noted, they change. Still, our program is consistent enough that writers and curators have nailed exactly what they see us as doing and been consistent about it so...

When someone has a chance to talk to the gallery director in person, is it ever appropriate to ask them about their "rolodex," or at least about their business practices, marketing/publicity attitudes, and/or their network of patrons, curators, critics and others?

I see nothing wrong with asking. You're entering business should know who you're working with. I can see them not sharing names per se until you're actually officially on board, but that's a separate matter.

I am wondering what people think about dealers who sleep with their artists

I don't see the connection to this thread, but that's a fairly broad question. Some dealers are married to one of their that instance I don't think it's anyone else's business whether they sleep with each other or not.

What you are writing here about selecting artists makes me wonder, are you doing it exactly the wrong way? I don't just mean you, I mean all of us? If we get to know the artists, can we still judge the work objectively?

I think your suggestion might work for collecting work, but not for representing/working with a living, breathing person. The idea that a gallery might represent an artist without getting to know them first strikes me as odd.

4/06/2007 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger venbolta said...

I love how your advice focuses on an expanded dialog of art... and maybe not the trap of letting representation or success measure worth... I like to remember that I want to engage with art and people really into art (dealers) first to simply enrich life and to be more aware of art contexts... being aware simply helps make better work... and better work finds its way into contexts that reach wider audiences... (as artists we can hope for that at least) ... one of those contexts may be a gallery... magazine...or street corner.... but the point is to receive gifts by continuing to encourage yourself and others to look... which for me often consists in visiting galleries that are doing things that provoke interest... and talking to others in those contexts when I am not completely socially inept...

btw... I remember you posting this advice in the past ... and I have probably quoted it word for word to younger artists on numerous accounts... such a great attitude reminder!

4/06/2007 03:41:00 PM  
Anonymous stacy said...

your advice sounds very much like all the sound advice one encounters when preparing for an interview with a potential employer: get to know things about the company; the people you'd be working with/for; if you have a chance to speak with them, remind them of something they said that struck you in the conversation to jog their memory (and show that you were paying attention); show that you did research and have innovative ideas about how your methodology/approach/ideas/whatever will fit into the culture.

all in all, i thought very sound advice. if people get discouraged listening to it, maybe it's because they don't take it as seriously as they would as talking to a potential employer.

4/06/2007 03:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, I have a question.

I have had good and bad luck with this even though I did it backwards due to ineptitude.

In the specific case of the mass press package mailing, I did not hear a response from my target galleries or worse-a rejection letter.

Is it a bad move to try to THEN approach the specific gallery and talk in person as suggested here-after a turn down?

Would it be best to proceed like it never happened, or would the gallery director perhaps feel they must stay consistent with the inital response if they see the work a 2nd time under more acquainted terms?

Thanks Ed!

4/06/2007 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Would it be best to proceed like it never happened,

I don't see why not.

or would the gallery director perhaps feel they must stay consistent with the inital response if they see the work a 2nd time under more acquainted terms?

Only a dumb gallery director would feel that IMHO.

4/06/2007 04:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

an exception to the rule--my over-80 year-old father has never not walked in cold to a gallery with his sculpture in tow to introduce himself, and he manages to charm and impress his way into places more times than not!
he comes from that golden era when the artworld was much smaller and less "professional" (as we define the term)-- and he acts like he's still back there. People seem to like it.

4/06/2007 04:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best advice I ever received (in addition to Ed's!) was "always assume you are never the exception to the rule"

My two cents.

4/06/2007 04:57:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

"always assume you are never the exception to the rule"

Good advice for life, no doubt, but in business I think the opposite is good to consider as well...well, kind of the opposite. That is, the folks who make it big almost always do so by inventing their own rules or blazing a new trail. In other words, assume you're only make it by being the exception to the rule, as far as perceived limitations go. More succinctly, break the rules where that makes sense for you.

4/06/2007 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous cnonymous said...

What do you think about galleries where the owner is married to one of the artists represented? It happens a lot in LA.

As an artist, it makes me uncomfortable because it is immediately obvious that it isn't an even playing field and never will be. Unless there's a divorce.

4/06/2007 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But certainly they can't be married to the whole stable of artist's? So that left room for 10-25 others to be in it too.

To me that is not too different from artist run galleries when they are on the roster too.

I read an excerpt in a book once-"Skinny Legs and all" I believe-that they were actually relieved to see the Art world ran on very similar terms as the business world.

4/06/2007 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger tim atherton said...

dammit Edward, such good advice. unfortunately, having researched you, i know you don't take my kind of work... if only there were a chain of Winkleman Galleries... :-)

(hmm - that sounds a bit too much like Kincaid now I write it down)

museings blog

4/06/2007 06:38:00 PM  
Anonymous cnonymous said...

If your spouse is one of the artists represented by your gallery and someone comes in looking, whose work do you promote first and hardest - the 20 something artists in your stable or the spouse? That's what I mean about a level playing field.

If you are represented by your own gallery, that's pretty sad.

4/06/2007 07:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously the artist who is married to the dealer gets more attention/resources from the dealer than any other artist. It may sound cynical to say, but when the dealer sells spouse's work, basically they as a couple keep all the money, rather than they as a couple taking only 50% of the sale. I know such a couple and the other artists at the gallery grumble about it amongst themselves, but what can they do?


4/06/2007 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger Susan Constanse said...

Good advice, Edward.

Re: level playing field.

It can work out okay, but I thimk you would need to know the gallerist. I work for the gallery that represents my work. I only show it off to visitors unless someone asks specifically or comments about a piece of mine that is sitting around. Same for the director, unless it is appropriate for the client.

4/06/2007 08:24:00 PM  
Anonymous crionna said...

You want collector X or curator Z to reconsider any preliminary hesistations they might have about your work because they respect the other choices that gallerist makes. Otherwise, you're not getting all that you can get from your gallery.


4/06/2007 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Brian Miller said...

Really good advice. Basically, the artist needs to look for a gallery that meshes with the artist. It doesn't make sense to take street photography to a landscape photography gallery, etc. "Doing your homework" is just finding a gallery that you like to be in, whether showing or not. You also need to find out if you like the gallery owner. If the gallery owner gives you the wrong vibe, then bug out and find the right vibe.

4/06/2007 11:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Edward - Thanks again.

4/06/2007 11:56:00 PM  
Blogger Gary Nylander said...

I just came across your blog, I am going to have to do some more exploring here for sure, very imformative.

4/07/2007 01:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Good to see an artblog discussing real issues rather than art theory. The real art is getting ones foot in the doorway I think.

4/07/2007 02:51:00 AM  
Anonymous birgit Zipser said...


What do you think of art cooperatives? I think there is one on the main drag in Boston.

4/07/2007 12:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think what Ed said about not bringing actual work into the gallery is appropo, especially if no introduction or overtures have been made. I do think, however, that something SMALL would be OK if one's work doesn't translate well in a reproductive format. Could a Robert Ryman today actually drop off prints or a CD of his work and expect an accurate reading?

For example, I tried for a few months to get a dealer over after he had seen some jpegs and prints of my work. He was reluctant, but made it over eventually. He was surprised at how different the real thing was from the reproduction, and bought two things on the spot. Would he have come sooner and less reluctantly if I had initally included a small, real piece? I know so.

4/07/2007 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I do think, however, that something SMALL would be OK if one's work doesn't translate well in a reproductive format

Not in a cold call context. Please don't do it.

4/07/2007 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely- as I said, without any prior intro, dragging in your own work is inappropo and wierd.

4/07/2007 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger de Selby said...

I'm interested in selling my art but I'm actually more interested in talking and thinking about it, my own AND others. In fact, I think I'm more interested in this than anything else: dialog and thought. Showing and selling work -- AND trying to show and sell work -- is, to put it very bluntly, nothing more than a means to this end (and not the only one either).

4/07/2007 03:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone else here ever feel like they've sold their children into slavery after having a successful show?
Do we all have to sell to be successful?

4/07/2007 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy said...

I really enjoyed this post, Ed, and I am sure this approach works very well, especially if one happens to live anywhere near the gallery or galleries that seem to be good candidates. However, for those of us who live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, breaking Ed's rules are a must. While I have not actually shown up at a gallery with my actual work (ok, I did once), I have dropped of my info in person and/or mailed or emailed my info unbidden. I certainly received many rejections but I also had some success. Of the 8 galleries I show at, 5 of them, including one in NYC, and a really good one in the Berkshires that's been a perfect fit for me, were a result of a cold call on my part.

I would love to be able to form a relationship with a gallery first, but it's not very realistic. And in some ways I am very happy that my work speaks for itself and either gets me in or doesn't. Seems a bit more clear cut to me that way.

4/07/2007 07:21:00 PM  
Anonymous markcreegan said...

Yes Ed thanks again for sharing your expertise. Its really helpful to get some inside information and I really appreciate your candor.

Tracy, dynomite to hear of your success so far away from the "art centers". I'm glad you are one of the exceptional exceptions! And thanks and congratulations to anyone out there who takes a chance on out-o-the-way artists. I think its couragous and smart of a dealer/ curator/whatever to have a wide scope. (Thanks Tim and Kathy!)

And to all those deflated folks Ed mentions, remember that you CAN have a wonderful and fulfilling art career without ever having representation.

4/07/2007 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Jacques de Beaufort said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/08/2007 02:50:00 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/08/2007 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, what is your opinion on the ethical and professional way to LEAVE a gallery if it is not "working"? I have always felt that my relationship with my gallery was dysfunctional, and recently discovered that I cannot trust them at all.
Is it always correct to leave one gallery before you look for another (mine represents me only in one state, I was thinking of getting another in hand before leaving the first)?

4/11/2007 12:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Noddy Turnell said...

This is such a great article. Can we reprint it in our newsletter For the American Society of Contemporary Artists?

I think the circulation is about 40

4/15/2007 02:31:00 PM  
Anonymous monkeymind said...

any advice on how not to be a nervous wreck when approaching dealers ?The gallery world is scary as hell to me,and so are many other artists-Why does everyone seem so snotty and uptight?

4/16/2007 12:03:00 PM  
Anonymous markcreegan said...

hey monkey,
just imagine them as little todlers playing with their own poop!

4/16/2007 05:25:00 PM  
Anonymous monkeymind said...

and throwing it at each other?I realize its kind of a stereotype,but I went to freakin artschool yaers ago,and was scared away(tho not from producing art)need therapy i guess,or a near death experience-but thanx for the info here

4/16/2007 07:47:00 PM  
Anonymous markcreegan said...

So I know this post is old but I was just wondering if anyone has been using Ed's tips?

As for me,I have been dilligently re-researching hundreds of galleries online. I havent approached any yet. Still having a problem finding the perfect fit mostly because it is so difficult for me to determine within which market my art should exist. Im feeling a bit like Goldilocks. My art seems to be in this weird tween area- not exactly conventional but not the wildest stuff out there either. I have been not only looking at the type of work but the resumes of the artists also to find ones close to my level of experience. Also, when I do find a gallery that seems close, the website states they are not accepting any unsolicited submissions. I swear this has happened to me about 12 times! There is one gallery that I love so much I may send a query email anyway.

So, what are your experiences? I realize it hasnt been much time but I was wondering if anyone has followed ed's instructions? I plan on following it to a T once I can figure out which galleries to seek out.

4/26/2007 01:05:00 AM  
Anonymous jennie Rosenbaum said...

Thankyou so much for this wonderful post. it certainly rings true for me and is very sensible besides. rather than feel defeated I feel buoyed up by it and ready to take on the art world! forging relationships has certainly made a difference in my career already.

If I may ask though, do you recommend having a strong local dealer base before setting sights on far off places? how would you recommend forging long distance relationships? I research and research online, then feel odd about emailing.

4/26/2007 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Richard said...


Thank you for spelling out the steps to getting into a gallery. I started my own program about five months ago, and did almost exactly what you recommend. The only thing I did differently was to send out an email with jpegs. I know, this doesn't usually work! Except that it did work, very well. I'm now in four very good galleries around the country, and two big galleries in NYC are considering my work.

I don't mean to sound puffed up, although I am, but rather to say that doing your research, knowing which galleries to approach, and presenting yourself in a good light can work quite well. It worked for me, and I had no sales history, and my resume was sparse. So I focused on my work, my knowledge of my materials and method, and my business-like approach and awareness of the relationship between dealer and artist.

Thanks again for spelling it out. It's really solid advice.


5/06/2007 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Richard Womack said...

Great advice,I'am representing an artist in NYC this fall..People lack the proper knowledge, the right approach in Meeting Gallery/dealers.Ongoing Living in NYC for 4 years is great hand!

5/06/2007 08:20:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/11/2008 03:00:00 AM  
Blogger jefrescott said...

I know this is an old blog, but I just stumbled upon it. I am an artist living in Copenhagen and would like to approach the markets of my neighboring countries (Germany, Norway, Sweden). As an artist that has shown many time in both Ireland and Seattle, where I was living prior to Copenhagen, I agree completely that it is important to do research and build repor with intended galleries.

Although, do you have any advice for when approaching galleries internationally. I know that research is still possible, but how to go about building a relationship with the gallery via email?

Thank you

- jefrescott

3/13/2008 10:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Jools said...

Thank god someone (Mr. Winkleman) has the balls to reveal himself and what it's really like on the Gallerists side of things. It really does help us artists out there. Thank you.
I've been ages trawling the net looking for this topic..sort my case I'm already in a big established international gallery in Germany as an Artist, but I want out. The reason being they are notoriously slow paying. Months, even years go by before I get whats owed to me from work I've sold and I've just had enough of it. So I'm approaching other galleries with the intention working with someone else. And I got some valuable advice from this blog...

3/18/2008 05:37:00 PM  
Anonymous loopie said...

Good day to you, Mr. Winkleman. I know that this is an old post I'm responding to, but it's new to me, so I'll give it a shot. I appreciate all the advice you offer, but I would like to know if you have any advice for someone in her mid-forties who is just starting out in trying to develop a career in the art field. After doing some teaching of art and some editorial illustration, I've decided to finally put my efforts into what I really feel passionate about, and try and get my more personal work into galleries. My question has to do with the old familiar catch 22 of not being able to get a job without experience and not being able to get experience without a job. How does someone, well past college age, create a resume, a CV and bio when there's almost nothing relevant to put on it? I haven't had any group, let alone solo shows, not to mention awards, grants, collectors, etc.?! I live in NY (okay, Queens, but that's technically NY). Does it even make sense to attempt to show my work to any NY galleries (after finding ones where my work would fit)or would my lack of gallery experience be three strikes against me right off the bat?
I know you're an extremely busy man, but absolutely any advice from someone like you (particularly you) would be tremendously appreciated!! btw, my work can be seen at (top work is what I'd like to show, below are some of my illustrations)
I thank you also for all the wisdom you impart in your blogsphere!


11/21/2008 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger Will said...

Excellent post - this is exactly what I am looking for.

Thank you very much for this.

1/26/2009 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Alika Cooper said...

interesting.. i have had a couple artists who work with gallerys in san francisco, tell me that they took work in person in to the gallery, "cold", and thats how they started working with the gallery. this was probably 10-15 years ago. so, maybe thats dated info.

2/03/2009 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger Alan Montgomery said...

Dear Ed:

This is a fantastic resource. I have a question. I live in the hinterlands of Dakota territory, South Dakota to be exact, about an hour from Sioux Falls. Because there are really no venues near here, at least between Minneapolis and Omaha, I am destined to obscurity. The internet is it for me? If I lived in NYC I would do as you have said because I actually enjoy the dialog you mentioned. But being here, presents no such opportunity, and I feel at least like my work would do better somewhere where there is a better market. I would appreciate your guidance in terms of finding something suitable. I do have a show record with solo shows, and I did once show in a little gallery in SoHo called PulseArt back in 1994. I have a Picassa web album with current work which I can share,just need an email address. Thanks in advance Ed.

3/10/2009 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger Alan Montgomery said...

Hi Ed:

I really did not want to appear as being completely's more a question of a suitable focused search via internet to find the right venue for what I am doing---there's just so much and so little time.

Thanks again, your expertise is highly appreciated out here!


3/10/2009 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Fischbach Gallery said...

I stumbled on to your site and have been reading thru it for about 30 minutes. I have to say, I appreciate your commentary and subject matter. One of the better blogs, I've read thru. I'll re-visit!

3/23/2009 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger Alan Montgomery said...

Hi Ed:

I bought Art/Work on a recommendation from one of your posts, looks good. Am still looking for a gallery.

3/24/2009 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Joseph said...

It is great to have real advice on how to approach a gallery!! But the world is now international in business, etc. and the Internet has reduced the distance between artists and galleries. What if you are not at the location where the gallery is, so you cannot go to shows in person? How do you approach them - through blogs, and emails about their shows?? What if you have no relations or connections of any type to people who own art galleries, and don't know anyone or group that does? I paint partially to escape the bonds of socialization, and now I must try to go back in and to sell my vision to people I have no connections with - what would be the best methods in this case? I used to think that you could just show your art, and that would be enough - but everybody and their cousin does art, so there is no distinction. I feel "special," but nobody knows, so I have to let them know why/how I am special. But if nobody is looking for your work, how do they find it? Especially if you can't do cold calls - you have nothing left but a cold call. Seems like some above are secretly longing for the idea that a cold call WOULD be possible, and that just showing your art would be enough - you wouldn't have to smooze with new "Academy," there would be somewhere public where many could see your work, and no one could stop your work from being seen (even before you die). But, I'm sorry, we're not there, and I may just die heree, on the pavement before my work is really exposed!

1/23/2010 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger glen alexander said...


I enjoy reading your blogs, they are very informative.

I've been doing lots of research on galleries in NYC, Chelsea area. I don't live there but was planning on visiting for a long weekend. After a few weeks, I viewed their previous and future exhibitions and narrowed down the list from 100+ to about 5. I created individual introductory emails for each gallery, three weren't interested and two, I never heard back from.

I can either be concerned about selling my art or paint. These days, I'm a locomotive.

My work is bleeding edge in that it is completely new but I am standing with the old Masters Van Gogh, Rothko, Pollock not the buzzing static and noise of modern 'pop' art. My work is a mixture of abstract with definite forms and all deeply human.

IMHO true artists are driven, we have no choice, you feel it in your marrow of your bones or you don't. You feel power when you pick up the brush or you do not. I do, so eventually my work will sell.

Maybe I just needed a place to ramble, now it's back to putting on the hob nail boots, heading out to the wheat fields and create some paintings.


9/21/2010 01:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Barbara Mink said...

Though this column is years old, your advice rings so true. As a painter who lives outside of NYC, I long for Chelsea the way Chekhov's women long for Moscow. The chances of getting there are about as slim, but widening my markets laterally is not so bad. Thanks for reality check that resonates through time.

1/28/2011 06:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think artist should face the facts that many galleries just don't like artists. The internet and alternative spaces might be a better deal for many artists. What other product besides art does the retailer take 50-60%of the sale price?

5/17/2011 02:35:00 PM  
Anonymous maggie said...

Dear Edward, thank you for this advice. I'm an artist from the Netherlands, Amsterdam. your bolg is super!
love Maggie

12/30/2012 08:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Don said...

Hello Edward,
Your advice is greatly appreciated.
You stated in your advice to think seriosly about where your artwork belongs.This is my dilema.
My artwork is unlike any other.
I know you have heard this a thousand times but I have yet to find anyone who creates artwork like mine.
How do I introduce a new art that no one has seen or heard of?
Any information would be great.

1/31/2013 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger Jen Mitsuko said...

Thank you for all the advice! I'm really glad that someone has some insight and willing to share it with others too! This really helps me rethink a few things that I know I've been doing wrong.

1/09/2014 03:07:00 PM  

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