News Flash: It's not the gallery's job to do 100% of the work. Successful artists understand that a gallery relationship is a partnership. If you help your gallery sell more, you will benefit. (Note: If you don't have a gallery and need one, scroll to the bottom.)
Congratulations. You just got accepted into your first art gallery! Now you can sit back and collect the dough from all the artwork they sell. Right? Well, maybe. But there are things you can do to help your gallery sell more work. Here are some ideas:
- Ask What You Can Do.
Most galleries will tell you what they need from you. But, just in case, it;s a good practice to ask, "What can I do to be an ideal artist in your gallery? What can I do to help you sell more artwork?" Every gallery is different. Some may tell you to do nothing while others may have specific requests. Listen carefully.
- Start With the Frame.
Though some galleries will select the frame, many expect you to put the frame on your work. Fact: Good frames sell paintings faster and at higher prices. Most artists I know use inexpensive frames. The pros use high-quality frames that have better finishes. Most gallery owners will tell you that they have taken paintings off the wall after several months, re-framed them in quality, and sold them immediately.
- Prepare a Detailed Biography.
Look for every possible angle you can add to your biography. That gives the gallery something to talk about. Where did you study, whom did you study with, where do you paint, what is your background? Put it all in there. Chances are the gallery will edit most of it out -- but they may also keep things you may have left out.
- Provide Top-Notch Photography.
Give the gallery a quality reproduction of every painting you provide. Make sure you photograph with color bars and gray scale so color correction can be exact. Provide HIGH-resolution images so they can be blown up bigger in ads. Make sure you study good photography (tripods, proper angles to avoid reflections, proper lighting, etc.), or hire a professional (you'll want images for your book someday anyway).
- Provide a Story for Each Artwork.
Stories sell. If there is a special story associated with a painting, write it up and attach it to the back. "I backpacked 300 miles with two other painters and a mule. We camped by a waterfall, and I awoke to find a moose drinking from the water. I quickly sketched him."
- Provide Co-Op Dollars.
When galleries advertise, they often (not always) ask the artist to pay a portion of the ad cost (usually half if the ad is only for that artist.) Provide co-op money whenever possible, especially if you have a big, expensive painting you want them to sell.
- Be Visible.
Win awards, be in shows, generate publicity, do anything you can to increase your visibility and create something for the gallery to talk about.
- Offer Your List.
If you have a list of people who have already bought your artwork, it can't hurt to give it to the gallery. Again, think of them as your sales agent and don't assume you will be selling direct. They can use extra names.
- Promote to Your List.
E-mail newsletters, new painting releases, painting stories to your list can be helpful. (Make sure the gallery gets them too.) Make sure you list the gallery as the place to buy, and provide a link.
- Ask What Art They Want
While many artists reject the idea of allowing a gallery to dictate what they paint, a practical approach is to listen to their requests, and if you're comfortable, provide the gallery more of what sells. It's fine to paint what you want, but if it doesn't sell, it won't help your income. Maybe you can paint what you want and still provide something within the range of what the gallery needs.
- Tag Your Website and E-Mail Signature.
Make sure your e-mail readers and web visitors know where to buy your work. Make sure the gallery is listed and linked.
- Take a Shift.
Ask if you can pick a couple of days to "babysit" the gallery. There is no better way for you as an artist to understand what a gallery has to go through with customers. If you can experience the role of a gallery salesperson for a couple of days, you'll have a finer appreciation of what they go through. Understanding the gallery world will make you understand their needs more. It won't change your artwork, but it will make you a better artist in terms of your gallery relationships.
- Don't Be a Pest.
Gallery managers have to spend a lot of time babysitting all their insecure artists. Don't call or e-mail too often to ask if anything has sold (a good gallery will let you know). Don't complain too much. Ask how often they want to hear from you.
- Show Appreciation.
The unwritten story is that no one wants to help a jerk. If you are a whiner, a prima donna, a jerk, a pest, it will hurt your sales. Though most won't consciously "get even," some will subconsciously. One artist I know buys the salesperson who sells his art a special something with every sale. Chances are that they will push a little harder to sell his work. Incentives are wonderful (but make sure the gallery is OK with it).
- Be a Fast Responder.
A gallery can lose a hot sale prospect in a matter of minutes. They may need a quick question answered, or need to know if you're willing to make an adjustment or do a commission work. Give them your cell phone and answer immediately. Minutes can make a difference between a sale or no sale.
If you don't have a gallery and need one.... read below.
Eric Rhoads, Publisher, Streamline Publishing, Inc.
Twitter, Facebook, Linked In
PS: If you need a gallery, we are having EXCELLENT success helping artists get galleries. Our magazine Artist Advocate runs images of your artwork (paintings, sculpture, photography, fine crafts, mixed media) and sends the magazine to over 6,500 galleries that sell original artworks, PLUS art licensing and art publishers. BONUS: One artist in our last issue ended up getting discovered by one of the major national artist's magazines, which resulted in a feature article!
"I picked up a gallery with my first ad in Artist Advocate. The second ad yielded another new gallery, a featured show, and a $20,000 commission. I can't wait to see what happens with the third ad! --Bill Wright
Read other testimonials at the Artist Advocate website.
If you're interested in applying for an Artist Advocate Artist Listing, Contact:
Peggy Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org) 828-628-9021
Kathleen Lawrence-Davis (email@example.com) 530-934-3687
Jaye Alison Moscariello (firstname.lastname@example.org) 310-581-1578
Lisa Freedman (email@example.com) 914-301-5184
Artist Advocate Magazine: Connecting Artists With Art Galleries on Facebook