Gallery Submissions: How to Set Yourself Apart from the Crowd

With many artists vying for the same few spots at galleries or exhibition spaces, the “competition” for exposure can be difficult and disheartening. Unpersonalized rejections, lack of feedback, or unresponsiveness from galleries can lead artists to take drastic measures to stand out from the crowd. Sometimes these attention-getting tactics are great, and sometimes they ruin your chances before you’ve even begun. Below are some ways to stand out from the crowd.

1. Visit the gallery regularly, be friendly with the staff, and chat about whatever exhibitions they are showing. When you drop off your portfolio in person, the staff will be much more likely to give it proper consideration since they are familiar with you.

2. Treat your correspondence like the gallery is doing you a favor by looking at your artwork. Imagine that you are applying for a job that doesn’t exist, and approach the situation accordingly. It usually works best to be courteous and appreciative, regardless of the result.

3. Choose appropriate galleries to submit to. Consider how the gallery would benefit from having you as an artist or from showing your work. If you can’t objectively find a good reason, you should consider other spaces. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

4. Stand by your work but don’t oversell it. If you have never had an exhibition, don’t hide the fact—many galleries are looking for unseen, new work. It’s best to represent yourself as honestly as possible; don’t bend the intent or the soul of your artwork just to fit in somewhere. If you stay true to your intentions, your integrity will be recognized and appreciated and your artwork will get a proper audience.

Want more information on submitting to galleries? Check out The Do’s and Don’t’s of Submitting Artwork to a Gallery

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4 comments

  1. C

    This is generally a helpful website and I know this comment is a year late, but here I have to offer a criticism. Regarding #2 (and the implications of the rest), a gallery is not doing an artist a favour by looking at his or her work. Artists are the reason galleries exist, and they are the procucers of all that galleries have to sell, from physical objects to “cultural capital.” Typically a gallery takes a 50% commission on sales. Both the gallery and its “stable” of artists have overhead costs. If artist X sells a work for $1000, the artist takes $500 and the dealer $500. If artists X, Y, and Z each sell a work for $1000, each takes $500 and the dealer takes $1500. Who is doing whom a favour? To find out, we might compare the average annual incomes of artists and art dealers. I don’t think it does artists any good to perceive exhibitions or representation as favours bestowed upon them by galleries.

    • Hi C,
      Thank you for your comments. Upon reading them, I realized I was imagining a gallery who was not soliciting submissions. I re-worded that phrase to come closer to what I meant — I think it is beneficial to artists to treat their interaction with a gallery as though the gallery is doing them a favour. I don’t think this is right or ideal, but I think it is realistic. The more courteous and respectful an artist is, the better chance they have of positive feedback. My intent is not to imply that an artist’s work is not valuable to a gallery, I agree with your points above. The reality is that while a gallery needs art and artists to survive, a very large percentage of artwork and submissions are not valuable to a gallery.

      I very much appreciate your comments.

  2. C

    Ha, yes, “the reality is that while a gallery needs art and artists to survive, a very large percentage of artwork and submissions are not valuable to a gallery” — this is a point I cannot argue with! Still, artists, however realistic or practical, must be idealists. Thus, your point about integrity (4) is well made and well taken. With ideals and integrity comes a certain amour-propre, and so perhaps in discussing artists and galleries (as well as art-run centres, etc.), it is better to speak of compatibility than benefit.

    Thanks for your response, the subtle but meaningful revision, and this site on the whole.

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