How do I get my work into a gallery?

20

Dear Artist,

The never-quite-satisfactory answer to the question remains what my dad told me long ago: “Keep busy while waiting for something to happen.” And while the old system stands — of visiting galleries in person, getting to know their programming and pursuing a shortlist with excellent images of current work plus support material — a new and remarkable artist’s marketplace is teeming with an active audience of gallerists, curators, agents, consultants, designers, collectors and advocates. You will find it on your phone.

Joseph Beuys, Homogenous Infiltration for Cello, 1966–85 cello, felt, fabric.

Homogenous Infiltration for Cello, 1966–85
cello, felt, fabric
by Joseph Beuys (1921-1986)

If you’re serious about getting your work into a gallery, the current name of the game could be Instagram. With the help of a few artists, I’ve been quietly testing an idea and getting extraordinary results. Dealers, too, have personally told me they are actively looking for fresh blood on Instagram. They’re scanning for gorgeous, quality images of your work in progress, in detail and in situ. The picture is complete when including a link to a website that offers additional support material and your CV. Be consistent with both the quality of your work and the images. Stick to posting content that relates to your art practice and periodically include a glamour shot of your dog, cat, or other inspiration. You can post daily, but probably no more than that. Two or three times per week seems to be a sweet spot. Opt for quality over quantity and don’t drop your new photo habit. Of course, all of this depends on a steady production of new, finished work.

Schlitten (Sled), 1969 wooden sled, felt, fabric straps, flashlight, fat, oil paint, string by Joseph Beuys

Schlitten (Sled), 1969
wooden sled, felt, fabric straps, flashlight, fat, oil paint, string
by Joseph Beuys

Next, follow the galleries, non-profits, museums, consultants, designers, art rags and curators you admire, plus your art friends, supporters and art heroes. Include a few inspirational superstars, as well as the unsung unknowns you love. Now, engage with your new community. This includes using a handful of well-chosen and tasteful hashtags per post to draw new eyes to your page. Take advantage of the option to respond directly to those who comment on or like your images. Be professional. If you’d like to attract a dealer, stay collaborative rather than sales-y. Instagram’s purely visual platform allows image junkies to scroll through and discover new artists. Your work is democratized to a level playing field, can be assessed for quality, originality and, yes, even marketability, for those inclined. You’ll be surprised who’s looking.

Sincerely,

Sara

We Are the Revolution (La Rivoluzione siamo Noi) 1972 Diazotype with rubber stamp additions, 6' 3 3/8" x 39 5/8" by Joseph Beuys

We Are the Revolution
(La Rivoluzione siamo Noi) 1972
Diazotype with rubber stamp additions,
6′ 3 3/8″ x 39 5/8″
by Joseph Beuys

PS: “Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” (Napoleon Hill)

Esoterica: Artists thriving on Instagram report that in-progress studio-reveal images and videos are beloved by all. Do you have a particularly dramatic process that makes you a bit special and you don’t mind sharing? Studio messes are also adored, as well as gallery-installation images, close-up brush-pushing and, as I mentioned before, a well-placed dog, cat, or other, which adds heart and scale to your work. Why not try it for six months or a year? If you have an Instagram success story and are open to sharing your results with others, please comment below. You can also find us on Instragram at @painterskeys.

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“A total work of art is only possible in the context of the whole of society. Everyone will be a necessary co-creator of a social architecture, and so long as anyone cannot participate, the ideal form of democracy has not been reached.” (Joseph Beuys) 

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20 Comments

  1. Marilyn Yates on

    Now I really feel old. Don’t own a smartphone, don’t trust Facebook and paint every day but Sunday. Have shown my work all over the Southwest in galleries for over 40 years. I think the best thing is to learn from artists you admire, keep improving and finding a gallery with artists who seem to be in sync with your work. After you have found a gallery with comparable work, speak to the director and present a few pieces that are representative of your paintings. That’s all I know that works.

    • right on.
      all this other stuff sounds like you’re spending most of your time with your face in a computer. sigh.

      • Totally disagree. Instagram and social media has connected me with artists and community in a way I never thought possible. It’s never been a better time to be an artist.

        My phone allows me to focus on producing work and minimizing marketing. I ask you, how long does it take you to physically frame a work, deliver it to a site, do the vernissage and pick up the work? How many collectors do you figure you’ve touched? Maybe a couple of hundred?

        I can post an Instagram photo in minutes and reach an audience of thousands. Moreover, they can feedback instantly. And, as Sara mentioned, I can post wip and really engage viewers.

        Old school is dead school as far as I’m concerned. The ball game probably looks much the same if you’re an established artist in a suite of galleries but for the rest of us savvy to tech, it’s a whole new world.

    • I agree, this works very well. It may seem old fashion but if you love Instagram still keep complementing with some “leg work”. My mother used to say in Spanish: “La cara del santo hace milagros” The saint’s own face works miracles.

  2. FYI Sara: correct your URL to this page and future pages in email. This is second letter I had to add the “dot” to get to painterskeys.com

  3. I think this info on instagram is spot-on, and appreciate the efforts. It takes a lot of moving parts to create a business in any regard, especially for us artists. All the supportive ideas percolate within our individual go-to bag of tricks, and we expand on those we feel an affinity with. Its fun to learn and think outside the box, diving as we do into this new technological world we inhabit. Thanks for sharing your instagram supportive tips and ideas!!

    • I’ll echo that, Robin, not as an artist showing work in galleries, but as a novice looking for inspiration. Instagram is a great way to discover artists from around the world, to see their process, studio, exhibits and sometimes their lifestyle, too. For the skeptics, check out Montreal’s watercolour sketcher Shari Blaukopf @sharisketcher or Vancouver muralist Ola Volo @olavolo, Spain’s Carlos San Millan @c.sanmillan, Belfast portraitist Catherine Creaney @catherinecreaney, Bath’s Peter Brown @petethestreet1 or Portugal’s Eudes Correia @eudes_watercolor . They are all very busy professional artists with between 17 and 75 thousand followers. I can’t help but think that Instagram contributes significantly to the marketing of their work.

      • Yes. These painters are great to follow. I wouldn’t know them if I hadn’t seen them on Instagram.

  4. I want to get on Instagram. I have basic computer skills. But cannot grasp instagram. I guess i better try harder in order to get my work further out there. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. For me Instagram is a place of connection with other creatives and art collectors. It has been a journal of my process and successes. I enjoy seeing into the world’s of other artists too. I have made some true connections I otherwise wouldn’t have made. It is also a good place to link a website.

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Have you ever wanted to take the essence of the figure and present it in a way that is sensual and thought provoking? When you are abstracting the figure you don’t have to worry about anatomy but are more concerned about shapes, value and color.

 

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