Tuesday , 30 May 2023
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ARTISTS – SELLING your art in a gallery

ARTworks by Tom Beckett

Maggie Shepherd -Hickory Island from the North Trails, Cootes, Oil on Canvas, 30 x 48 in., 2023
Tom Beckett

What a feeling!  Creating your unique work of original art and having someone else love it enough to purchase it, display it and live with it in their home or office.   The dream of so many artists.

I love the enthusiasm of artists who approach me assuming that I will immediately love their art, represent them and be anxious to put it on the walls of my gallery.

While many artists are happy to submit their work for review, I’ve experienced artists walking into the gallery, phones in hand, expecting to me stop what I’m doing to show me their art in on a wee screen. 

I thought I’d take some time in this series of articles to provide some advice for artists who would like to approach and attract a gallery, as I’m interested in bringing new artists into the gallery and showing their work.

Being associated with a gallery is a big commitment for both parties, both with long term success in mind. 

Galleries need new quality art and artists to refresh their inventory and artists need galleries to have their work professionally shown, marketed and develop provenance for their work.   Being associated with an established gallery raises the level of respect for the art and artist.

Finding new artists

Truth be known, I’m a bit of an art detective. 

I follow many artists on Instagram and Facebook studying their work, learning more about the artist themselves.   It’s a package – when I show the art, I am also working with the artist.  I watch how they work with and correspond with their followers, how they present their art, study the techniques they use and look for growth over time in the art they present. 

That’s how I met Kyle Joedicke, a talented local Indigenous artist who moved from graffiti to canvases.   Beyond being an extraordinary young artist, he is kind, respectful, energetic and dynamic!

Kyle Joedicke – Water Snake, Acrylic on Canvas, 24 x 30 in., 2022

I also visit exhibitions and casual presentations. I discovered one of my artists, Ivan Murphy of Halifax, when he was displaying his art in Nathan Phillips Square at their annual Toronto Outdoor Art Fair.  You never know!

And then, there is the art and artists that present themselves to you.

Presenting an e-resume/portfolio

When an artist approaches me in person, via email or social media, here’s what I ask them to prepare and send me by email:

  • Artist statement Where they learned their craft – and not necessary that it be formal, it may be self-taught or learned from a mentor. What motivates the art, techniques used.   Think of it as a resume cover letter.
  • Web site or social media site that contains a variety of their work.  It’s best to present a smaller curated collection that represents the artist rather than multiple pieces.
  • Summary of art experience:   Where has the art been shown previously, has any sold? and if so, for what price, etc. 

Preparing an electronic portfolio is ideal.  A gallery or art dealer can easily learn more about you and the work you create at their leisure. It’s much like submitting a resume or job application.

How do I determine if the art and artist are a good fit for my gallery?

A good fit

Tom Wilson – Teacher, Oil on Canvas, 24 x 12 in., 2023

Art, as we have discussed in previous articles is personal.   Your art will appeal to some and not to others.   People are drawn in by the colour, technique, composition, subject matter, the artist and their story.

For me, I need to feel connected to the art and believe in the artist to promote and sell it to my clients.  For me, when it’s great, it tends to affect me physically, deep in the gut. I’m an art guy that is moved by art!

If it’s not for me, or don’t think it’s quite right for the gallery at this time, I will let you know and am happy to give advice to advance the art and/or sell the art through other venues.

Not all make it through, just like not all applicants for a job… get the job.  It may not be the right time or place but keep pursuing your passion.

And a bit of reality.  When an artist is chosen to show their art, not all their works will make it to a gallery or the gallery web page.   A gallery will likely select a few pieces to start. And, if it is a painting, it needs to be professionally finished and or framed to make it to the wall.

If you are chosen to show your art through a gallery, congratulations.  It’s the dream of many artists!

Gallery Do’s

  • Contact the gallery by phone, email or in person to introduce yourself, but be prepared to produce a professional e-portfolio that will be reviewed at the gallery’s leisure. 
  • Learn about the gallery and study the gallery web site and determine the type of art in their current inventory.  Your art may be similar or totally different and that’s perfectly ok – come informed and be prepared to “sell” your art to the director in a clear, concise manner.
  • Follow the gallery on social media to determine what and how they market their art and artists.

Gallery Don’ts

  • Tag the gallery or dealer on social media if you’re not affiliated with the gallery, and never without their permission.
  • Show up at a gallery without an appointment and expect to show your art.
  • Present any reproductions or mass-produced art – only originals please.

Are you ready?

Only you know if it is time to sell your art, and further that it’s time to reach out to a gallery.

If you’re relatively new at it, it’s often best to test the market on social media or small art shows.  Be aware of what art does sell and why people buy it. Ask them what attracted them to your work – the subject matter, technique, colours, price… what?

Be true to yourself.  Don’t follow trends or what you think sells. Your uniqueness, your talent is what makes you and your art special and what will be evident to the gallery.

Build that portfolio and reputation.  Work with other local artists. Attend art shows. Visit galleries and get to know the dealer or curator over a period of time.

Hamilton is an art city blooming with arts and venues to sell art. It’s exciting to be part of the positive energy that brings. 

As a private art gallery and long-time art dealer, I look forward to meeting the next “new” artist.

Tom Beckett is the owner/director of Beckett Fine Art, est. 1966, 196 Locke Street South, Hamilton, ON., Canada   www.BeckettFineArt.com 416-922-5582

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