So you’ve been dreaming about having your work shown in a gallery – how do you go about making that a reality? There are a few different things you can do.
1) Get Organized!
Even if you've never had a formal show before, the gallery needs to see you as a professional. Make sure you have a well-organized portfolio for your work – if you're approaching the gallery in person, it's always a good plan to have a few top-quality photos or scans on hand, and most galleries will want you to have an online presence for your work as well. The initial submission process for most galleries these days is digital and they will often ask for you to email your website or some images via email. A Facebook, Instagram, or Flickr page is good for sharing your work with friends, but may give the impression to Galleries that you aren't serious about your career. Consider creating your own website, with your own domain name (eg. yourname.com) to showcase your work.
2) Ask How the Gallery Does It
Pretty much every gallery director is going to be an art-lover themselves, and they'll have a tried-and-true process for finding new artists to show. Some galleries have entry forms of sorts available by request, or on their website, when they are seeking out shows. This is especially true of galleries that support emerging artists. Many galleries will approach artists on their own – by sending curators to open studios, or openings at other galleries where new artists are showing. It’s always important to put yourself out there as an artist, invite people to your studio, and keep making and displaying work.
3) Think in Exhibition Terms
Before you even apply for a show, you have to have a show in mind. Remember that a gallery exhibition is usually more than a random collection of works you've produced - it's a cohesive piece in itself. Maybe your show will have an overarching narrative, maybe you want to show works you created in a specific place or period of time, or maybe all the works will be centred on one theme. Think about your work in terms of an exhibition, rather than as individual pieces of art. Devise a concept for your show that will encompass all of the works you want to exhibit.
4) Consider Collaboration!
If you have the opportunity, and especially if you haven't shown before, consider putting together a group show. Do you have friends who are also beginning their artistic careers and hoping to be in a show? Talk to them and see if you can create some works that fit together into a great exhibition. Or, if you know some people who already have an idea for a show, talk to them and see if some of your work might fit in with the theme! This will save you the pressure of cooking up an exhibition concept as well as all that art for your first time.