So, you’ve decided that you want to submit your artwork to a gallery. Fantastic! Although it can seem like a daunting task, creating a professional and complete submission to send to galleries is a huge step in getting your artwork “out there” and progressing your artistic career.
Before you even begin gathering and preparing your materials for submission, you should make a decisive plan to streamline your effort and decide which galleries you want to submit to. I have written a post to help you with just that– please read Which Gallery Should I Submit To?
Once you have decided which galleries you want to submit to, take this most important step for each: ask the gallery what they require for submission.
Some galleries prefer an all-electronic submission, while some insist on physical portfolios. Based on your initial research, you will need to prepare some or all of the following:
Obviously, the most important component. Depending on what the gallery prefers, this could either be a physical portfolio of work, a disc of images, or a link to a website or online portfolio. Unless a gallery requests something different, you should send 10-20 of your most recent works.
If you are preparing a physical portfolio, I suggest reading “The Practically Perfect Portfolio“, an article by artist Brennen McElhaney. This gives an excellent overview of what your portfolio should look like, and offers excellent tips and suggestions. My only note to add to Brennen’s article: depending on what kind of submission you are sending, you may or may not need a price list (for example, if you are submitting to a non-commercial venue, you should not submit a price list). If you are mailing or dropping off a physical portfolio, include sufficient postage for the gallery to return your materials to you.
If a gallery requests images on a disc, you should consider the following:
- images should be in JPEG format
- images should be Mac and PC compatible
- images should be sized about 600 pixels high, or thereabouts. This way, it ensures that the entire work will be viewable on almost all sizes of monitor.
- name you image files in a logical and consistent manner. Begin each file name with a number, starting with your most recent work, so that the files will automatically arrange themselves in chronological order. Here is an example of one way to title your files:
- include a text document on your CD which has a list of works, as well as include a printed copy of this list in your submission.
- label your CD with your name and contact information
If the gallery asks for an email submission, you have two options. You can either email low-resolution JPEG images, or you can send a link to your online portfolio or website. If you are emailing JPEGs, make sure that they are web-quality, low-resolution files. If you send large files, they can get caught by spam filters and / or can be difficult to open.
The Curriculum Vitae or CV is essentially an artist’s resume outlining previous exhibitions, publications, press, and more. For a full explanation, examples, and a guide to writing your CV, please read my post How to Write an Artists CV in 10 Steps.
3. ARTIST STATEMENT
Your artist statement is an opportunity to explain the background and process of the work you are submitting to a gallery. There is no definitive right or wrong in writing your artist’s statement, but it should be concise. 500 words is a loose guideline, but it could be less or (slightly) more. Please see my post Suggestions for Writing your Artist Statement for a discussion of artist statements, as well as links to examples of statements.
4. A WRITTEN PROPOSAL
A written proposal for an exhibition is only necessary if you are submitting your work to a gallery that explicitly requests exhibition proposals, not just artist portfolios. If you are seeking representation by a gallery, you do not need to have a written exhibition proposal.
The difference between an artist statement and a written proposal is that your artist statement focuses on your artwork and practice in general, and a written proposal is a specific plan for an exhibition. A written proposal should include:
- a brief overview of the concept behind the show
- number of works and description of works to be included
- specifics of installation
- short biography of the artist(s) and if applicable, curator(s) involved
Much like a job interview, it is professional to follow-up on your gallery submission if you have not heard back. If the gallery does not give you a time-line for reviewing your submission, wait at least two weeks. Depending on the amount of submissions they receive, it could take much longer to review your work. It is best to be as polite and non-invasive as possible, and I suggest emailing instead of calling. Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to be pushy—in most cases, this will hurt your chances. For additional information on this subject, I have written all about the Do’s and Don’t’s of Submitting Artwork to a Gallery.