So, you’ve started a gallery and now you need some art. Where do you start? I’m sharing some advice from the book How To Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery by Edward Winkleman.
There are a number of ways to find artists for your gallery; recommendations, institutional exhibitions and studio visits and cold-call submissions.
Recommendations: Having a clear vision of what you want to showcase in your gallery will not only make it easier for you to decide what kind of art will fit into your gallery, but it will help others note what can work for your gallery. Recommendations can come from anywhere, but pay particular attention to other art dealers, curators, collectors and other artists.
Other art dealers might know of an artist that does not fit within their gallery, but might be perfect for yours.
Curators are a great place to get recommendations from because they specialise in areas or curate thematically. They should have a good idea where you can start looking.
Collectors are usually a very well informed group of people. They might even be able to tell you why your gallery isn’t living up its mission statement.
Artists will be the most significant place to find recommendations. Artists usually keep an eye on each other’s works out of professional curiosity.
Create a dialogue with people who share your interests (such as the people mentioned above). They will be a well of information and ideas.
Institutional Exhibitions: Visiting institutional exhibitions is a great way to see what artists are currently creating. Visiting not-for-profit galleries, contemporary art museums and student exhibitions is a wonderful way of learning about new artists. Keep in mind that you might have discuss expectations with the artist that you would want to sign up for your gallery if they have never been represented before. Artist might expect travel and studio expenses and might not be aware that not all commercial galleries offer such benefits.
Studio visits/ Open studio tours: Usually a dealer is invited by an individual artist for a studio visit. Open studio tours are arranged by foundations, artists that are grouped together in an area, or Universities open their student work spaces. Keep in mind that studio visits are business meetings between an artist and dealer. Always be professional. Disrespecting one artists will close many other studio doors for you. Artists usually appreciate some kind of feedback on their work during a studio visit. One can learn a lot about an artists and what it will be like to work with them based on how prepared they are for your visit. Have some set questions ready for the artist, such as;
- How much time is spent in studio?
- How long does it take to create any given piece?
- What do the works sell for?
- Does the artist have any other current commitments?
- Does the artist have any career goals?
The average length of an initial studio visit is 30 -45 minutes. It is a good idea to ask the artist how much time he/she has for the visit and let them know how much time you have. That way if the meeting seems a bit brief, the artist will know it has not been cut short due to lack of interest.
When visiting a studio it is quite accebtable to ask the artist to provide the following:
- Images of the art work
- A copy of the artists CV
- Pricing information
- A list of materials
- What works are available
- A description of the artistic process
During your visit to the studio, it is polite to provide a preliminary assessment of you interest in the artist’s work. Artists might offer you work straight away, but it is usually a good idea to take time to think over the information gathered during the visit to see if it will be a good fit for you and your gallery. Let the artist know if the work is not right for you, it is impolite to keep their hopes up.
Respect the privilege of being invited into a private sanctuary of the studio.
Cold-call submissions: When opening a gallery, you will receive numerous submissions by artists hoping to find a gallery for their art. This is where having a memorised mission statement is useful. It helps define what you are looking for and provides the artists with valuable feedback. Submissions are usually the least productive way of finding art for your gallery. It helps to have clear submission guide lines so as not to be overwhelmed. Even though submissions aren’t the most effective way of finding artists, they are good for new galleries. New galleries can often quickly pick up on the style and calibre of art being created in the local area via submissions.