Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Gallery Experience

In preparing for this week's Salute to the Arts, I have been in contact with Susan of Gallerie M, the gallery in St. Louis which displays my work. She has been so easy to work with that it made me start thinking about how important it is for artists to have a positive working relationship with their business partners, the galleries who showcase their work.

On September 15th, I will be a featured artist at an open house at Gallerie M. Susan agreed to prepare the advertising materials a little early so that I could hand them out during this weekend's show. Although I haven't seen them yet, I did send some images over so that she could select one for the front of the postcard she will mail to her mailing list. As a last minute addition to all I have going on Friday with setting up for the show opening on Friday, I agreed to drive over and pick up a few hundred postcards. Twenty minutes later, I phoned her back, asking if I could borrow a couple of my paintings on display for the show. She said no problem, she would have them ready with the postcards when I drop by to pick them up early Friday morning. I guess when we're both willing to "scratch the other's back," it is a win-win situation for everyone.

However, I know this isn't true for all artists. Many don't communicate with their galleries, figuring that they are the 'artiste' and simple phone calls are beneath them. I couldn't disagree more. You are there for each other. While the gallery certainly needs the artists' works to display and sell, there are millions of artists out there, so the artist needs to cultivate a friendly yet professional working relationship with their galleries. Off the top of my head, here is a quick list of 5 pieces of advice for artists seeking gallery representation:
  1. In communications, make sure your emails are free of errors - grammatical, spelling, mechanics, etc.
  2. When meeting gallery owners in person, dress professionally. A casual business would be appropriate, I think. If there are patrons in the gallery while you are there, you don't want to give the image that the gallery works with ruffians.
  3. Make sure you can communicate with your audience. Be able to explain your art - what it means, how you do it. And for heaven's sake, don't be offended when you're asked!
  4. Walk that fine line between self deprecation and self aggrandizement. You don't want to seem like a pompous you-know-what, yet you have to be honest about your abilities and your accomplishments. You must have talent, or the gallery wouldn't have contacted you. Be gracious in accepting compliments, be honest about your abilities. No one can fault you for that.
  5. Follow up your visits with a short note - just like your mom used to make you write to grandma after Christmas (or whatever holiday).
  6. Keep your prices in line with what they are at the gallery. You certainly don't want to undercut them, and by the same token you don't want to ruin their reputation by making them seem like a bargain basement. I have a published price list that goes by size, so a 16 x 20 at the show this weekend is the same as it would be at Gallerie M, as it would be if I sold it to my neighbor.

My gallery experience has been very positive, and I look forward to a long relationship with Gallerie M. I hope that your experiences are/will be the same. I would be interested in hearing some of your stories.



1 comment:

magicmyst said...

Hi Matthew, thanks for your comment on my blog. It's great to hear from you. Your advice in your latest blog is really good. It sounds like your art career is moving along in the right direction. How do you go teaching full time, family and your art. You must not have much time to spare.