Get Some Gallery Love: Part 3

Bonita Williams Goldberg (her painting, Not Over Yet, above),
is known as a Georgia Peach. She routinely sends new clients
to her representatives, and she rotates consistently beautiful
works in and out of her galleries.

Artists love to gossip about galleries, but what you may not know is that gallery people love to swap juicy stories about us just as much! So do you want to be known as a Difficult Dan or a Georgia Peach? If you earn a reputation as a diva, few people will be willing to represent you, no matter how great and marketable your oil painting artwork or watercolor paintings may be. But if you follow the steps in this and my two previous posts on getting your gallery expectations right and how to get top billing at your gallery, you just may have gallery reps jumping at the chance to work with–and for–you!

First, be a fair and ethical business partner. In my opinion, it’s okay for you to sell direct to the public and through a number of galleries spread out across the region or country, as long as you play fair. Specifically:

1. Keep your prices for your paintings or drawings consistent across the board so that galleries don’t feel you’re undercutting their sales.

2. Link your website to all of your galleries’ websites so it’s obvious you’re willing to push customers toward buying from your galleries.

3. If someone contacts you directly asking to buy or commission a piece and mentions that she saw your work at such-and-such gallery, either direct that person to buy the work there or make the sale but pay your gallery the same commission as if the customer had purchased or commissioned the work there. The gallery brought you that sale so the gallery deserves its cut.

4. Keep all of your galleries informed of all of your shows, and try to schedule shows happening in the same general region so that they’re at least six months apart. If shows are held too close together, the gallery holding the second show won’t have much of a chance to make sales (your fans will have bought your work at the first show).

5. Respond to requests promptly, especially when your gallery rep is asking for more work or a quote on a possible commission.

Express your gratitude. Visit the gallery, drop a friendly email, or pick up the phone occasionally, just to say thanks for their support.

Keep your criticism to yourself. Unless your gallery rep is doing something that has an obvious negative impact on you, zip it. It’s not smart to make him look bad or feel stupid.

James Jared Taylor III, who paints abstracted landscapes like Joseph's Sky (oil, 24 x 24 in.), above,creates sampler CDs that contain jpegs of his works and his bio. His reps can hand them out to anyone who's interested in his work.
James Jared Taylor III, who paints abstracted landscapes like
Joseph’s Sky (oil, 24 x 24 in.), above,creates sampler CDs
that contain jpegs of his works and his bio. His reps can hand
them out to anyone who’s interested in his work.

Deliver several new pieces every four to six months, and be sure to retrieve whatever hasn’t sold. Your rep will appreciate the fact that you’re not using the gallery as a warehouse for your work.

Stay consistent. I know this goes against the very fiber of our creative beings, but your gallery rep wants you to deliver the same saleable work over and over again. So if you’re moving in a new direction, create a few pieces that reflect this new vision, then consult with your reps. They may love it and want to keep right on representing you. But if they don’t believe they can sell the new look
and you really want to continue with it, you can at least part as friends.

Be visible, but not distracting. It’s great to visit your nearby galleries occasionally, but keep your visits short and don’t pull the staff away from customers. And you may want to think twice about attending openings that aren’t for your shows. It can be a tricky politic to navigate, but in this case it’s not your turn to shine.

I’m sorry if all this sounds preachy, but in the last three months I have seen artists do every one of these “don’ts.” And if you’ve done these things yourself, I’m sorry if I made you cringe. Artist to artist, friend to friend, I thought you’d want to know what goes on inside your gallery reps’ heads so that you can build and maintain healthy relationships with them. Handled correctly, the gallery system can be a win for everyone.

Let me know what you think about all that I’ve shared–did anything surprise you? Confirm what you might have thought already? Leave a comment and let me know.


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The Artist's Life Blog
Jennifer King

About Jennifer King

Immersed in the art world is just where Jennifer King wants to be. Thanks to her long career in the art-instruction business--she was the editor of several leading artists' magazines--she has had incredible opportunities to meet and interview many of the finest living artists of our times, including Will Barnett, Clyde Aspevig, Scott Christensen, Sam Adoquei, Richard Schmid, Everett Raymond Kinstler, Ken Auster, Carla O’Connor, C.W. Mundy, Dan Gerhartz, Birgit O’Connor, Daniel Greene, and countless other generous artists who’ve shared their knowledge and insights. She is also honored to have edited several art-instruction books with such noted artists as Tom Lynch, Dan McCaw, Ramon Kelley, Wende Caporale, Carlton Plummer, and more.

Inspired by their passion for art, Jennifer returned to her own love of painting about 15 years ago, studying with figurative painter Tina Tammaro. Through this experience, she discovered her love of landscape painting, which for her, acts as a visual metaphor for human emotion. Constable, Corot, Pissarro, Inness, and Diebenkorn are among her artistic heroes. Other creative pursuits include photography and jewelry-making, and she’s also continuously studying art history and theory.

Jennifer paints primarily outdoors, but also in her home studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. She also continues to serve as a lecturer and competition juror for various art organizations across the country, and she is a member of the Women’s Art Club of Cincinnati. Jennifer is currently represented by the Greenwich House Gallery in O’Bryonville, a suburb of Cincinnati. As a confirmed landscape artist, her future goal is to use her experience in the art world to raise awareness for the need to protect our environment.

3 thoughts on “Get Some Gallery Love: Part 3

  1. Just wanted to ask you about the comment you made about not going to other openings, you said it is not your moment to shine. Wouldn’t you be supporting the gallery by going to see any new shows they have hanging there and to support the other artists?

  2. Hi Elizabeth – that’s a great question, and you make an excellent point. I agree that making a reasonably brief appearance at an opening is a good way to show your support for your gallery and your fellow artists. It’s fine to come in, have a glass of wine, and chat with friends for an hour or so. But I’ve seen artists engage in behavior at other artists’ openings that can be very distracting: holding court for the entire evening, attempting to steer collectors away from the show and toward their own art, coming for “dinner” (making a meal of the hors d’oeuvres), and drinking enough wine to get thoroughly toasted. Those are the types of actions that make gallery owners cringe. Thanks for asking me to clarify!

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