Don’t worry, it’s not as ominous as it may sound. I hear a lot about artists looking at galleries, watching where other artists show, seeking opportunities to show in alternative spaces and so on. Artists are always on the lookout to get their work shown. What I think artists forget is that gallery owners and the people that work for them are always looking at art too. While not all gallerists admit it, most are watching for new and interesting artists.
How do I know this? In part because I used to work at a gallery. We were constantly looking at art, and that was back in the day when no one thought it was necessary to have a website. That’s right, who in their right mind would say that now? We kept show cards, looked at galleries on our travels, went to art shows, MFA shows and art festivals. We were always looking at art. I mean really, if you sell art then you probably love art, spend a lot of time around art and artists and you keep your eyes open. When we found an artist we felt was a standout we would contact them regarding their work. Perhaps it was to show at a themed show, for a particular project or longer term representation, but the relationship was not initiated by the artist. We were aware of artists that weren’t necessarily aware of the gallery.
Another case in point: a friend called me today to tell me that she was contacted by a gallery that she thought had dismissed her work. An initial conversation had taken place many months ago that appeared to go no where. She had thought the gallery simply wasn’t interested, but then just recently they called her and in fact had been visiting her website. They still liked the work, and now she is shipping a painting to the gallery and the relationship is moving to the next step.
So how do you prepare for this?
- Keep you best foot forward. This means on your website, on social media sites, at galleries, at openings and when you meet new people, especially in the art business. You never know who someone may know that opens the next door for you. Not that you want to be fake to get an opportunity, I am not recommending this, but be kind and polite and treat people you meet with respect.
- Update your website regularly. If you knew a particular gallery was visiting your website every 6 months or so, would you want them to see more of the same every visit? Have you updated the text pages to reflect that your next opening is next month, not in January 2008? It’s a small detail perhaps but one that galleries pay attention to so make sure you have your website in order with correct and updated information.
- When a gallery asks you to follow up with them about your work, do it. The comment isn’t intended to let you down easy, the gallery owner wants to be reminded of your work and progress without having to think about tracking you themselves. You aren’t being a pest if you send them a show card in 6 months, or if you drop them an email to let them know about an upcoming show. Make it easy for them with a link to the site, your website and remind them that they asked you to follow up with them. When I worked at the gallery, we asked artists to keep us updated on their work but surprisingly very few did.
No one can deny that the art world is changing. Whether the economy is the reason, or social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, or the burst of art fairs around the country, the way galleries and artists meet has changed from even 10 years ago. Change with it because you never know when someone might be watching, and I mean that in the best way possible.