Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Advice for Artists Seeking Gallery Representation

I've had a request to consolidate the various threads we've hashed out over the years geared toward offering advice to artists seeking gallery representation and working with one. As I get individual requests from time to time myself, I figured finding them all would be time well spent. Here, in no order of when they were written, but rather of seeming chronological importance, are 10 threads I think include helpful information for any artist wanting to learn how to navigate these waters. Thanks to all the readers whose comments make them as useful as they are:
  1. Selling solo vs. working with a gallery
  2. Tailoring your resume for an art dealer
  3. Studio visit strategies
  4. Getting your foot in the door
  5. Mistakes to avoid in finding the gallery right for you (the one-size-fits-all myth)
  6. My very best advice for approaching a gallery
  7. The logic behind the 50/50 split
  8. Communicating with your dealer
  9. Dealing with over-protective dealers
  10. Notes on ending a gallery-artist relationship
I'll add a link in the blogroll to this master list.

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35 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

you make it sound so easy. (actually, you don't. but putting it in a bulleted list does make it sound easier than it is)

2/03/2009 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Julie Sadler said...

Wow, Ed, that was downright kind and nice of you to spend your time helping others and putting together the resources that you do.
I am constantly amazed at how much you give back to the arts and the art community. I think of karma and how things we give are later returned. If only half of what you've given, you've received back, you must be a rich man.

2/03/2009 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron Wexler said...

Only two more and you've got the whole 12 step program going. Oh the art addiction....

Seriously though, I've gone through at least 3 of these during the time you've blogged on them. Always good to hear different points of view from different commenters within a structured conversation.

Now how would you approach Ms. Vassell?
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/arts/design/03break.html?ref=arts

2/03/2009 08:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Oriane said...

"On an early January morning just weeks after Art Basel, Ms. Vassell was sitting at her desk near her boss and mentor, Jeffrey Deitch . . . Ms. Vassell had gotten in at 9:30 a.m. to check the e-mail messages from Europe."

OMG, people in the art world have to get up so early!

I'll have to keep reading, there may be something of interest in the article, but so far it's a little fluffy.

But seriously, Ed, this is a great service you're performing. When does the book come out?!

2/03/2009 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The book touches on many of these topics, but it written for budding art dealers, not artists, per se. Which isn't meant to discourage you from reading it (by all means I hope you will), but to be clear that the main audience is new dealers.

For a great read geared toward artists be sure and pre-order your copy of Jonathan Melber and Heather Darcy Bhandari (Art Work: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career)

Full disclosure: we were interviewed during Heather and Jonathan's research.

2/03/2009 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron Wexler said...

Yup, 9:30 AM(!)... crack of dawn. Barely enough time for a latte. How does one do it?

2/03/2009 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger ruben said...

Thank you Ed!

This is the kind of positive feedback that is rather refreshing, educational, positive and encouraging, considering the current economic climate that we are experiencing now.

I wish most art bloggers and writers will embrace your thoughful motivation process.

I am conducting interview/profiles from professional from all levels in the art business right now for my art blog.

The series is called The Current State of the ART Market and so far So far,I had interviewed and posted six individuals and have 13 more coming up. From Museum Directors to Art college students...would love to include you.The purpose is to share light and information in a positive light.
Please check my blog and feel free to contact me.

Http://ARTmostfierce.blogspot.com

2/03/2009 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Glenn said...

I've been searching for this information throughout your blog, post by post, and am truly grateful for you taking the time to organize it this way. Many thanks!!

2/03/2009 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Gabriel Boray said...

Thank you for the post, great advice and great blog, thank you. As an artist and gallery owner in Burlington, Vermont, I am in a unique position to learn from both sides as I pursue representation out of state. I have found that by visiting galleries, looking at the work and engaging in a discussion, I am usually asked if I am an artist and if they could see my work. My blog www.SecretsofAModernPainter.blogspot.com is where I write about painting theory and technique, and about how painting for me is, regardless of the subject, recording the feelings of experience. I think what will be most important for artists in the coming months is simply being real, true quality is inspiring and worth collecting. Again, thank you for your great blog.

2/03/2009 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Balhatain said...

Great idea Ed. I should do this with my advice topics and art law advice topics.

2/03/2009 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Ed,

Thanks for putting all the information together. Seeing it listed in the narrative you have created prompts me to say that as with any set of skills one acquires, there are steps in the process.

I've been doing something similar at my blog, a series called "Marketing Mondays," but I'm writing from the point of view of an artist. What's interesting, is that while we're writing from opposites sides of the fence, we are also united by it.

BTW I'd suggest another title for the art career bookshelf: Jackie Battenfield's "The Artist's Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What you Love" (info here:http://www.artistcareerguide.com/book.php). It's not out yet, but due sometime this year.

2/03/2009 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger Mike @ MAO said...

Hey Ed..

Nice post.
So, what you are really trying to say to all Aspiring Artist Seeking Gallery Representation...

Please DON'T Call, or Email ME.. Just read my blog!

But, what's even more brilliant,
soon you'll be able to say..
Please DON'T Call, or Email ME.. Just buy my new book!

XO
MAO

2/03/2009 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Why would you expect people to pay for this info, if you’re giving it away for free Ed?

2/04/2009 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

because this is only the tip of the iceberg, James...

2/04/2009 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Give 'em a taste, and then set the hook... I like.

2/04/2009 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

if only I were that savvy, James...I thought you were referring to the book I cite above "Art/Work"...that one has so much more information for artists than these threads.

My forthcoming book is written for new dealers. Although I think there's plenty therein that artists can learn from, I'm not setting any hook for it with this thread,

2/04/2009 05:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips and perspectives Ed. I know you hear this a lot, but great blog and many thanks for offering your viewpoints.

I was just wondering: Should individual artists modify their sales and publicity strategies based on the nature of their work, their geography, and their stage of career?

How can artists customize your tips and general best practices to suit there situation?

What would be your advice for a soon-to-be graduating art student?

What would be your advice for an advertising industry freelancer with a fine art degree interested in developing into a professional fine artist?

2/04/2009 08:25:00 PM  
Blogger claire said...

Thanks, Edward. I follow your blog weekly, occasionally post a response, always learn from your forthright positions and from the thread. As an emerging artist living outside Nyc, and without NYC gallery representation, I would like to add that the 50/50 split seems entirely reasonable! I left my job after receiving a nyfa grant 2 years ago to devote all my time to the studio. I used every minute to develop my work. Things being what they are, I've returned to work nearly full time. I've recently hired a consultant to help promote my work. The business side of art can be incredibly time consuming, without being very productive. With much less free time, I want to spend every minute making the work rather than promoting it. I see the expense as a business expense, a necessary evil, I hope not a waste of $$.

2/04/2009 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Dana Oldfather said...

Dear Ed,

Thanks for taking the time to give us artists a gallery owners' perspective. We really appreciate your efforts. This has been very helpful. Can I submit my CD to you now? Just kidding Ed!

I really do mean thank you!

2/10/2009 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Charles Kessler said...

On second reading I still feel it's the most useful advice I ever came across -- and well written. Thanks. I'd like to provide a link to it in my blog -- I assume it's okay.

4/27/2009 04:44:00 PM  
Anonymous lindsay said...

... very interesting reading, thank you.

As a mid-career, SELF-EMPLOYED & 'self-taught' artist, I found much of what you suggest geared towards those who are emerging from 'art school' with little to no experience of the school of hard knocks, aka 'Real Life' ...

I, personally, have avoided, LIKE THE PLAGUE, art dealers & commercial galleries, primarily cuz of the omnipresent TIME & MONEY 'issues'.

In the time department, from my p.o.v., it really is more expedient to pursue 'clients' directly. Most dealers I've encountered are just too 'haughty'. They always seem to expect the artist to do A LOT (set that in BOLD will ya?) of stuff for 'FREE', and yet, they STILL want their 40, now 50%.... Well, gee, guess what? WHY would I waste MY precious time in this way?

Likewise, when dealing direct to client about the money, the one-on-one relationship keeps everything 'tight' & 'in focus'. You pitch, you close, you collect. And, more importantly, you LEARN, 'connect', and with improving PEOPLE SKILLS, get additional 'referrals'... Just like real grown-ups in 'real business'.

The former benefits of a gallery/dealer were 'location' and 'exposure' to hithero unknown 'clients'. But I would argue that the internet, and a few site specific placements, has made the 'bricks & mortar' facade increasingly redundant.

Over 50% of my business now comes over the net, and I've only been visually 'on-line' for just over a year with a self-produced 'blog'. I realize I COULD create a more 'sophisticated', 'cool' or 'artist ain't here' website, but that's just not what I'm all about.

I think what needs to be addressed is 'ambition'. What do you, as an artist, really WANT out of it ALL? Then consider to what lengths you'll go to get what it.

Happy hunting all.

4/30/2009 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

Hi Edward, Thank you for the "Advice for Artists Seeking Gallery Representation" resource. What do you think of artists using business cards with images like those at Moo.com I don't mean the mini cards just regular sized cards with the usual information on one side and a quality image of your work on the other side. I see how these could be seen as unprofessional in other careers. But what about visual artists? Thanks for your thoughts.

5/26/2009 02:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing forum! Tons of helpful advice. My question, however, as an art student just embarking into the art world is...how important is coherence of work? I find myself in a difficult spot, becuase I am equally adept at realism and expressionism. I have a number of "salable" (I think, maybe) realist works, but more expressionist works. I am already in a frame shop/gallery, and selling some work, but since I live in a very small, working-class city there is a limited number of art investors of any sort. I'd like to move to the market in a larger city (closest to me is Boston), but am unsure as to what I should focus my future work on. Should it all be the same technical style? What about subject matter? At what point can I acceptably venture on to different material? Thanks for your help!

-Marissa Girard

8/19/2009 04:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Gordana said...

I have just stumbled upon your blog…and this segment about finding the gallery for representation. I’m sooo happy that You have shared your knowledge and experience, thank you, but at the same time I got sad realizing I have big homework to do …So, I’m going to close myself in my studio and just continue to paint..

11/23/2009 02:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

Recently I had a gallery interview in Chelsea. The interviewer said he liked my work but was hesistant to represent me b/c he wasn't sure how I would evolve as an artist.

Would you happen to know what he meant by this? Does he want me to change my style?

I don't hold a B.F.A nor M.F.A and know very few people in the arts, so his question left me very perplexed as I am not familar w/ the lexicon.

Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,
AZ

P.S. I can't thank you enough for writing this blog!

12/11/2009 03:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Rachel G said...

Great blog, great posts, and thank you all for the helpful information. How do you get your foot in the door in terms of presenting your work when you mainly do performance and installations? I feel it's hard to represent my performance through video, as well as my installations. How do galleries market people like me to make it worth their while. What do other artists like me do? And why didn't my art college throw me a freakin bone and give me more real world advice before I was torn away from my nice warm art academic bubble?

I would be grateful for any tips. Thank you.

2/25/2010 09:57:00 PM  
Blogger Jason West said...

Thanks for this. As someone who is just making maintings I'd like to show, your blog has been a great morale-boost; it humanizes the otherwise intimidating and often alienating New York gallery world. It's good to know there are dealers out there who are down-to-earth. don't let the cynics and those steeped in bitterness get you down.

Jason West

4/03/2010 12:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Mathieu V. Staelens said...

Hello Edward, dear colleagues,

I am an European artist, from Belgium to be exact.

Like all others, fantastic initiative this blog. I've been reading it now for a few days, all the discussions how to get representation, and so forth...

what puzzles me most is how one, as an European, can enter the American market? Most of my collectors told me to search an entry on American soil, because they believe my paintings will be appreciated there. I've mailed, put work on profile pages like the ones suggested, white columns is new for me and interesting to pursue, but nothing happened. Apart from a few people (all Americans by the way)contacting me to rip me off, one guy wanted to buy all my work from the past two years, but it turned up to be a hoax.
In my case, I think that one must see the work in real live to actually see the quality of it.

One painting takes me a few months, studio time is so precious, a lot of my artist friends who are taking there time to make quality, do not get the exposure they deserve. they do not have the time to network above the production of their works. I feel that the production of art is changing in finding hits, searching for success without the responsibility of actually making a point about the status of an image now days. Professional honor seems hard to find. to this end, I find it difficult to decide to what extent you can reveal the meaning you convey for your work? an image is not like a text, with a clear meaning, there are more interpretations possible, although in some cases, the interpretation or meanings do target a specific context. When I read that one should search a gallery with work that is compatible with yours, then I heard the other end here in Europe; do not try to contact a gallery with work in your range, because they already have it...

on the other hand we have a very peculiar tradition in Belgium, while having a big pool of talent, most international Belgian artists first get recognized abroad, before getting some attention in Belgium, Francis Alys, Luc Tuymans, Delvoye to name a few...

I know art is business, and when I am reading your rational and pragmatic views dear Edward, I feel to some extent a bit sad, because the gap between art and it's dreams or authentic statements and the market place of the day to day business reality is getting wider. artist seem to choose methods that are productive in the quantity of work made, instead of focusing on quality

I think you will read my idealism between the lines, so I hope that taking the "compelling work-strategy" will work best for me...


thanks a lot, I will follow you're blog from now on and I wish you a lot of success with the exhibition of Joy Garnett, we never met in person, but I was part of a group show (my first) in Aeroplastics gallery in Brussels: "after nature", where I saw the work of Joy Garnett, work I've been following up ever since.


Mathieu V. Staelens

11/08/2010 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger Mathieu V. Staelens said...

Hello Edward, dear colleagues,

I am an European artist, from Belgium to be exact.

Like all others, fantastic initiative this blog. I've been reading it now for a few days, all the discussions how to get representation, and so forth...

what puzzles me most is how one, as an European, can enter the American market? Most of my collectors told me to search an entry on American soil, because they believe my paintings will be appreciated there. I've mailed, put work on profile pages like the ones suggested, white columns is new for me and interesting to pursue, but nothing happened. Apart from a few people (all Americans by the way)contacting me to rip me off, one guy wanted to buy all my work from the past two years, but it turned up to be a hoax.
In my case, I think that one must see the work in real live to actually see the quality of it.

One painting takes me a few months, studio time is so precious, a lot of my artist friends who are taking there time to make quality, do not get the exposure they deserve. they do not have the time to network above the production of their works. I feel that the production of art is changing in finding hits, searching for success without the responsibility of actually making a point about the status of an image now days. Professional honor seems hard to find. to this end, I find it difficult to decide to what extent you can reveal the meaning you convey for your work? an image is not like a text, with a clear meaning, there are more interpretations possible, although in some cases, the interpretation or meanings do target a specific context. When I read that one should search a gallery with work that is compatible with yours, then I heard the other end here in Europe; do not try to contact a gallery with work in your range, because they already have it...

on the other hand we have a very peculiar tradition in Belgium, while having a big pool of talent, most international Belgian artists first get recognized abroad, before getting some attention in Belgium, Francis Alys, Luc Tuymans, Delvoye to name a few...

I know art is business, and when I am reading your rational and pragmatic views dear Edward, I feel to some extent a bit sad, because the gap between art and it's dreams or authentic statements and the market place of the day to day business reality is getting wider. artist seem to choose methods that are productive in the quantity of work made, instead of focusing on quality

I think you will read my idealism between the lines, so I hope that taking the "compelling work-strategy" will work best for me...


thanks a lot, I will follow you're blog from now on and I wish you a lot of success with the exhibition of Joy Garnett, we never met in person, but I was part of a group show (my first) in Aeroplastics gallery in Brussels: "after nature", where I saw the work of Joy Garnett, work I've been following up ever since.


Mathieu V. Staelens

11/08/2010 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Cynthia said...

Thank you immensely for this blog. I had googled "gallery representation for artists" and your blog was the first thing that showed in the results. I am sort of an emerging artist, though I've been doing art for a long time. I have never had a solo show or gallery representation and it's time I take it to the next level. That and I'm utterly sick of my day job and want to heed my notion of making a living by doing art. I have created a blog about my musings as a philosophical artist and created a website. I have a juried exhibition coming up as well as some shows in some local restaurants. Having done all that, I wasn't entirely sure where to go. Now I feel more educated and can proceed forward. I really appreciate your insights. You are helping artists everywhere.
If you would like, my blog is this: www.bruhesleavesandcloth.blogspot.com and it has links to my website. If you don't have time, then no problem - I just wanted to share in case you wanted some "light" reading.
In any case, I will take what you have written about gallery representation seriously and use that and other research to make educated decisions.

11/28/2010 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger julia trops said...

Hi Ed, thank you for that wonderful post. I have read it a few times, and finally came up with a request for two additions if you have time:

They are:
1. what are your thoughts for an artist who is easily found on the web, is that a detriment or a positive?

2. what are the common responses that a gallery will give, and what do they really mean?

Thank you, Julia Trops

1/14/2011 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Meyers said...

Thanks for your straight no BS talk. All artists and art students NEED to know this!

6/19/2012 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Jenny said...

I am an artist looking to get my work out there, and when I googled 'artist representation' I was fortunate to find your post, 'Advice for Artists Seeking Gallery Representation'. Each thread was packed with very frank, very useful information. Thank you for posting!

12/01/2012 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger Ero said...

Dear Edward,

I have been trying to help a very talented friend of mine promote his work ( I am doing some things for him because of some "special circumstances", I shouldn't get into at the moment) and was very happy to come across your blog. Everything you say makes perfect sense to someone like me, involved in a completely deferent art field. I would like to ask you something though and make a request: Can an artist that is not based in NYC, or is abroad make the effort to seek representation in NY, or would that be a too-far stretched notion? And if the answer is yes, then which, in that case, would be the best approach? And there lies my request: Please, do write a few words about this when your time permits it.
Warm thanks,
Ero

1/22/2013 08:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Edward,

I've been searching the internet for advice about ending gallery relationships; but most are advice about what to do or how to understand when the gallery does the ending.

I am wanting to end my gallery relationship, but not for greener pastures. The reality of the situation is that my gallerist has an aggressive and disrepespectful approach. I don't appreciate how he attempts doing business and the manner in which he e-mails me (sexist/unpredictable temper). I've worked with him for 3 years, and it feels like I am at the end of my rope with how he runs things and talks to me. I should note that if I end it, I will not have representation.

I've been advised by some that I am standing too much on principle. But to me, to be represented by him to to align myself in agreement with his practices.

The gallery and other artists seem to be doing well. He has such a temper that I worry about slander if I end it. Is it best to just try to let it fade away for a while? I've tried to talk to him and he tends to become defensive and assert that I am ungrateful.

Anyway, I am feeling between a rock and a hard place. I feel confident in myself as an artist to just go gallery-less and see what comes, but am nervous mostly about his reaction (since it is the reason I want to leave in the first place).

Any advice would be enormously helpful. This is a great blog!

Thank you.

3/08/2013 04:35:00 PM  

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