What to look for in a gallery really depends on what your idea of artistic success is. Read that again and let is sink in because it is a really important point. Your idea of success could be a long term goal to show your art eventually in an art museum or to sell your as much of your work as possible? Maybe the success is something else entirely. Some artists want it all but most of us are able to prioritize the thing we want the most and then the other acheivements that we would like but aren't as important.
Many artists start working with a gallery because they are approached by the gallery and the opportunity to show work is very appealing. But there is more at stake and more to consider. Many gallery/artist relationships end sourly when the vision that the artist has for their success and the vision that the gallery has for it's own success are not in alignment. Let's dig into this a little further! So you can make an informed decision when choosing to work with a gallery.
Here are some questions that you need to ask yourself before seeking out or considering working with a gallery so that you feel that you are working toward the type of success that you feel is most important for you.
1. Choosing a gallery based on location:
Do you care about being visible as an artist in your own town? If so then a gallery in your town might be a good idea. On the other hand......Can you get this type of local visibility without the help of the gallery?If so then perhaps considering a gallery outside of the place where you live can help you to get exposure instead of doubling up on the exposure that you already get by being an active artist in your local community.
Do you want a gallery that will get great walk-by traffic to harness walk-in sales opportunity? If so then consider the neighbourhood that the gallery is located in and surrounding businesses.
2. Choosing a gallery based on the longevity of their business:
Do you expect the gallery to have a long list of contacts that are passionate about collecting art?
Do you expect that the gallery will have strong relationships with these contacts? Sometimes a gallery that has been established for 10 or more years can provide your best option here. Not always - this depends on the way that the gallery has built their business. Find out if this is how they work if that is important to you. A gallery with a good quality and lengthy contact list can create great sales for you.
3. Choosing a gallery based on quality of presentation:
Do you like the gallery's website? How is the quality of the images and information? Is it up to date?
Sign-up to the gallery's email mailing list if they have one - How are their emails they send out? Again judge them on the quality of the images and text. Always try to put yourself in the perspective of a buyer if sales are important to you. Is everything clear to you about how you would go about buying a featured artist's work? Do they send reminders about exhibitions?
When guests enter the gallery are they greeted consistently by professional and polite staff? Do the gallery staff speak clearly about the work and have a positive description of the work? Are they informed and passionate about the artwork? If you choose this gallery to represent you then you are in fact counting on them to be a spokesperson for your work...try to find evidence that they are capable of that if you are concerned about their ability to properly present your work. These people can make you look good but they also have the power to make you look bad.