Researching Art Galleries for your next venue.

Selling art by far, is accomplished most effectively by the commercial art galleries.  Yes, art fairs and craft festivals do their share, but if you aren't into setting up a tent and hauling your work around the country, then commercial art galleries are your next logical step.  

Art fairs will be discussed later, as they do appeal to a large number of people, from both perspectives as buyers of art and artisans selling the work.  (There's nothing like strolling an art fair in the fall when the air is crisp, and the smell of barbecue from the food vendors is in the air!)

So lets look at the art galleries of today.  Put yourself in the art galleries owners shoes for just a minute.

They are bringing to the world the beauty of our creation. 

Art of Virginia inside

How to approach art galleries.

They usually have to set up shop in a high rent area, at a premium, because they must be large spaces.  They decorate and maintain these spaces in pristine condition for their customers.  There is pressure to make these monthly rent and utility payments, so their bottom line "the money" is high on their list of priorities.  

Keep this in the back of your mind as you research your art galleries.

So how do you start.  Get a good reference book or magazine.  The August issue of "Art in America" Annual Guide to Museums, Galleries, Artists, will be a good start.  Another is the "Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market"

You can pick this up at Amazon pretty cheap used.

And of course, the internet.  Doing a search using keywords like, "art gallery in (your city)", or "contemporary art in (your city)".

Here's what your looking for:

  • Does the gallery show your type of work?
  • Does the gallery show work somewhere near your price range of work?
  • How do they normally accept inquiries?
  • Most will accept an art package or brochure, but some still want slides.

It is said, "its not what you know, but who you know" that gets results, and increasingly, networking within the art world is becoming important.


Gallery owners report their top echelon of new artists come from recommendations of other artists they presently represent. 


They've built a relationship with those artist's and trust their judgment.  An artist wouldn't recommend another that they would be embarrassed to show beside.

Now, lets say you've found a few art galleries that are of interest.  This next step is crucial, and should be taken if at all possible.

Visit the Gallery!

Do this in stealth mode.  And you can combine a number of visits on your outing, but don't let on that you are an artist!  Your first visit is as a customer.  So leave your "art speak" at home.  

You are there to assess the feel of the place, the attitude of the personnel and the quality of the work being displayed.  Remember, this is going to be a long term relationship and you don't do this in the blind!

OK, you now have a listing of art galleries that meet all your requirements and you would feel comfortable leaving your work in their capable hands.  What next?

sunflowers for ukraineSunflowers for Ukraine, a recent fundraiser at a local Gallery
Learn and Master Painting

Plan a second trip!

Three or four weeks ahead of your trip date, make a mailing of your art packages or brochure. 

In your cover letter, let them know the dates you'll be in the area, and that you'd like to stop by for about a 20 to 30 minute visit.  

Those that aren't interested will mail them back.  Those that are will hopefully send some contact information.  And then you'll get the letters back that are in between.

Lets look at some of your possible responses back from your list of art galleries.  Bear in mind, the Gallery see's 100's maybe 1000's of pitches each year from up and coming artists.  They usually have a set of standard rejection letters which simply makes the directors job a little easier to handle.  Let's looks at the different types:

  • The definitive "code blue" as in "dead" letter.  It will sound like this:

"Thanks for sending your package, we receive so many inquiries we don't attempt to look at some of them.  Good luck with your endevours."

Scratch this gallery off your list for 1 maybe even 2 years.  They're not interested.

  • The "code orange" letter.  They're warming up to you in a nice way:

"We see you are a professional artist but are unable to accept your work at this time. Please send us a packet again in 6 to 9 months."

This means what it says! The gallery is warming up to you but is looking for your work to develop more, or see if it stays consistent.

  • The "code red-orange" letter.  These aren't form letters! But will address specific things they like about your work however, they can't accept new clients for the next several months, etc.

Write these folks back right away thanking them for their detailed review and that you hope they will keep you in mind for any future endeavors. 

You could even ask if they have recommendations of other venues they are aware of in their area.  Put this art gallery into your resend in six months file.  They may lose an artist, and you'll be there waiting in the wings!

  • Then the "code-red" as in red hot letter that says, come on down, lets get involved!

This could be full representation, or a group show participation.  The first one is a significant achievement, and there is much to be said (and celebrate) in a future article on keeping your art galleries happy.

The 2nd is almost as good and it is your time to shine and it gets your foot into the door!

Now, if your a more outgoing soul, and can handle yourself well on the phone, check out this article on Guerrilla Marketing your art!

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