How to Get Your Art into a Gallery

Getting your art into a gallery can be challenging, how do your submit your artwork to a gallery, how do you get to the point where they ask you to exhibit with them?

This video provides concrete tips using personal experiences with galleries to illustrate several strategies you can take. Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu.

Lauryn Welch

Video Walkthrough

  • Unsolicited submissions to galleries don’t work, there is no application process. (exception is a juried exhibition which is not the same thing)
  • The vast majority of the time, a connection with a gallery is made via an artist colleague.
  • Don’t assume that because you’re friends with an artist who shows at a gallery that it’s a good idea to ask them to recommend you, it can get awkward!
  • If you can, start by visiting and attending opening receptions at a local gallery, or one that is within reasonable driving distance.
  • Get a feel for how an opening works at a gallery, you can start by just lurking, without the pressure of needing to speak to anyone.
  • When you’re ready to start a conversation at an opening, ask the person about themselves, people love to talk about themselves.
  • Most artists who approach galleries haven’t done their research on whether that gallery is a good fit for the type of art they make.
  • Exhibiting with a gallery is more about finding a good fit and relationship than about how good your artwork is.
  • Look at the roster of artists the gallery exhibits, and ask yourself whether you fit into the style and media of those artists.
  • Use Instagram to research what types of galleries you may want to try to pursue relationships with.
  • Follow a gallery’s Instagram to see what their current shows are, and whether you are a good fit for them.
  • A gallery’s Instagram usually has more information compared to their website.
  • Leave thoughtful comments on the gallery’s Instagram, those types of comments really stand out.
  • Follow art critics, dealers, etc. who can give you insight into exhibitions in your area, or places you’d like to show.
  • Look at who those art critics, dealers follow on Instagram to find other people and galleries to follow.
  • Follow artists who have artwork that is similar to yours, and the types of careers you are striving for.
  • Look at those artists’ curriculum vitaes and see what galleries they showed with at the beginning of their careers.

Prof Lieu’s Tips

Clara cartoon

To price your art, a good place to start is doing the math math in terms of 1) # hours spent making the work and 2) cost of materials.

Deepti banner stop motion animation

You can ask yourself what is acceptable in terms of your time, so if you’d like to pay yourself $50 an hour. Or, if you want to make $100 per hour for your time, etc. Really depends on the person!

Let’s say one of your watercolor paintings takes 3 hours, and you want to be paid $50 an hour, that puts you at $150 + cost of materials.

Clara watercolor painting aloe portugal banner
Lisbon Botanical Gardens: Plein Air Watercolor Painting

I know this seems vague, but it works for me: I don’t want to price so low that I feel like I’m losing $ with the sale, but I don’t want to price so high that it makes me uncomfortable. Somewhere in between is what you’re looking to find.

Bowsers’ Tips

For some people they like to really push themselves and try to get as far as they can with their art… get into major galleries, shows, have a major brand name, be remembered until the end of time for their art.

Painting Basics Track: White on White Still Life, Palette
White on White Still Life: Painting Basics Track

Others would prefer just to make their artwork for themselves and keep it rather private, and have no purpose other than to make them happy, or have it as a hobby.

Both options are equally valid. (as well as if you fall somewhere in between both extremes) You’re not obligated to do anything you don’t want to.

Bowsers is a moderator in our Discord server.