Visiting Potential Galleries – Better Than an Email
by Doug Hoppes
Searching for some new galleries! No… this is not a plea for others to find me a gallery. No, I’m not leaving my current ones in Vermont. However, I need to expand my territory to a much larger audience than the local Vermont scene. So, time to expand out from Vermont into Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Part of my plan for 2014 was to be in 3 new galleries by the end of the year.
So, what do I look for when I’m “gallery-shopping” and how do I go about it? Well, first of all, I need to find the gallery. I could drive all over the US but I have very limited time to do this, so the internet and word-of-mouth is the best way for me to find galleries. When I do find a gallery on the internet, I always personally visit them! What they show on the website may or may not be the same as what you see in the physical store.
Some of the questions I ask myself:
Are there paintings leaning against the wall? When I first walk into a gallery, I always look at the art work. One of my biggest turn-offs is art stacked against the wall on the floor. First of all, I wouldn’t want to run the risk of people accidentally kicking my painting. Secondly, this tells me that the work is not moving. They are accepting more work than they can sell. They are hoping that, by giving someone a huge selection to choose from, everybody will find what they like.
I really don’t like this. I take great effort to make sure that my paintings look nice and are framed nicely. When I deliver them to galleries, I make sure that the frames have corner protection on them and I always check the painting once it’s hung in the gallery. I want a person to feel good about spending a lot of money and not feel like they got it at a flea market.
Are my prices in-line with the gallery’s prices? My painting prices may seem low to a number of artists. However, to a lot of my collectors, they seem reasonable. If I raised my prices to top artist prices, there is no way that I’ll be selling those paintings on a regular basis. It’s not going to happen. So, as I sell more paintings and improve my skills, the painting prices will increase. Not before then.
When looking at a gallery, I make sure that my prices are around low-to-mid-range for the gallery. They are in business to make money. If the painting price is too low, you are using up valuable space on their wall. They have to sell a lot of pieces to recoup the cost of that section of the wall. If the price is too high for their clientele, then you are using up space on their wall for a piece that probably will not sell. They have marketed their gallery to a certain clientele and they should know how much that clientele likes to spend.
Is my work similar to other pieces in the gallery? You are just wasting your time and the gallery owner’s time if you walk into a modern art gallery with pictures of flowers in vases. From the galleries that I’ve been in, most of the work seems similar in subject matter or level of expertise. So, I look at the galleries that show work around my skill level and subject matter. I may talk to the owner about what I can do to improve my work to get to the level of the gallery but it’s not in the best interest of me or the gallery to push my work on them.
Do I like the people running the gallery and does my gut feels like it’s a good fit? I always listen to my gut. When I walk into a gallery, I see how the people running the gallery interact with me or how the gallery “feels”. There are dozens of little clues that tell you how the gallery is doing: “How clean is it?”, “How forceful are the sales people in showing you the paintings”, “Whether or not you are being ignored”, “Whether they were interested in me or was just a wholesale area”.
Don’t just send an email. Instead, go and visit them.
If I hadn’t visited the galleries, I would have had a totally unrealistic idea of what they were like. This may not work for everybody, but this is what I do. It’s just a matter to find one where I fit with them and they fit with me. Kind of like finding the right job or spouse. In the end, it’s a partnership.
So…now that you have an idea of what galleries are about and how they operate, get your body of work together and start hitting the pavement.