The primary thing to focus on with art gallery submission is persistence…never give up. All galleries receive dozens, many hundreds of unsolicited submissions yearly. The reality is that of those many submissions, only a select few ever get chosen to be exhibited. Essentially, submitting your work and then patiently waiting is what’s involved here. With many galleries you may wait forever. With others, you may occasionally get lucky and find one who offers interest in your submission. It is very important to periodically follow up with a gallery after you submit. There is a fine line between persistently following up with a gallery, and being an obnoxious pest. However, it is critical to stay in touch with the gallery owner/manager so that they know who you are and that you are serious about representation/sponsorship.
Lets break it down into a step-by-step process from start to finish… Find galleries who accept or are looking specifically for your brand of work. This task is probably the most difficult part in the overall process. First off, most reputable/successful art galleries have their own website, listing their preferred style/brand of artists/photographers, their targeted browsers/buyers, their contact information and submission instructions. As you begin the daunting task of visiting the many and varied gallery websites whether in your location or nationally/internationally, you will quickly discover that most of them are not even accepting submissions. Ouch! Reality shock here. Yes, these are the cold hard facts. Most galleries will list this on their websites, or explain this to you via phone/email.
Now, assuming that through your tireless research you finally find a gallery that exhibits your style of work and is currently taking submissions, please follow their submission instructions carefully. It doesn’t hurt to call them just to be sure their website information is current. This will save you much wasted time and money. Many sites will accept your work electronically, either on CD disk, some even via email. Others prefer hard copies. Postal mail sometimes is the only method. Regardless, do exactly what they request. Generally they will ask you for 5 to 10 samples, sometimes more. Do this please. Do not send them dozens of pieces. Rather, select a few samples that best represent you the Artist, which reflect your soul, your personality, your inner work. Pick the work that expresses you the way you want your viewers/buyers to see you as an artist. Even include some work already sold if it exemplifies your best work, but its probably best to have the majority of your pieces not sold yet.
After submission, wait at least the minimum time per their instructions before contacting them with a follow up call/letter. Often this will be 4-8 weeks or longer. Trust that they received it and be patient. Now, give them a call. Formally introduce yourself. Be polite and professional. Let them know that you are extremely interested in their gallery, their style of art, and their sponsors/buyers. Be sure to keep detailed records for yourself, listing dates of your submissions to which galleries, contact names, phone and email addresses. Keep in mind that staff come and go at galleries, so it is very important to be able to drop a name of who you spoke to. If a visit in person is possible, this is the preferred follow up. Give them your business card. Smile, and appear confident. They are fully aware of the tedious process that you have been through just to be lucky enough to submit to a gallery. Do not appear frustrated or defeated. Look and sound upbeat and ready to discuss business. Be sure that you have thoroughly read through their website prior to your first contact.
Do your research. Be able to speak knowledgeably about their gallery. Leave them with a positive memory about your interview. You may only have a few minutes to chat on the phone or in person, so make it count. If you are lucky enough to have submitted to a local gallery, look professional and dress appropriately for each visit. Bring a professional portfolio with you. In it, be sure to have a current and complete hard copy of your resume. Include all past art showings that you have done, with the most recent listed first. Include names, dates, and references. List all of your relevant educational degrees/certifications.
Of course, include in you portfolio high quality hard copy photos of your samples, and at least one CD disk with samples. They may ask you for samples in person. Again, look and sound professional. Before visiting the gallery, be sure that you have made a previous trip to scope out the location, brand of art viewing customers, management and the parking situation. Realize that most art/photography galleries are physically located downtown in most cities. Allow time for traffic commute and parking. If this is a follow up interview, do not be late. Remember the saying, ‘early is on time, and on time is late’. Be punctual. If a gallery is gracious enough to agree to interview you either in person or via phone, come prepared.
Often galleries will only open to submissions for a specific event or special exhibit. Typically, a gallery will have a few different showings per year. A showing can last just one day, but more often it will run for a few weeks, even months. Usually these are ‘theme’ exhibits, showing a certain topic/subject. They are looking for artist who has that particular style or feeling of expression. Topics vary from a historical period of canvas painting, to a contemporary style of sculpture. You must be constantly checking postings and ads for what is up and coming at different galleries in different cities. You can’t afford to miss a rare window of opportunity allowing you to submit your work. A gallery may only accept for a few days/weeks, and then may not accept again for a year or so.