Approaching an Art Gallery: The Initial Email (an Example of What to Send)

At any point in an artist’s career, they many begin to seek out representation from a commercial gallery. This has several benefits for the artist. Some include more exposure, a better venue to show work (presumably), less self-marketing, and hopefully more sales (if that is what the artist is after). So, what should you include in your initial email to an art gallery?

Many art galleries are quite established and receive numerous submissions constantly. Because of this, it can be tricky for artists to get a “foot in the door.” The best first step is to do your research and first approach a gallery to see if they are actually accepting submissions. This is best done with a respectful, polite email (with a link to your portfolio cleverly inserted).

Example of a good initial email to an art gallery:

For the attention of the curator,*

I am a Vancouver-based artist seeking representation** locally. I am writing to inquire if you are currently accepting submission proposals. If so, could you please let me know which format or materials you prefer.

Your Name

The key points in this email are:

*Some people say you should address someone individually. I think this is fine, especially since it is your initial email and you shouldn’t be expected to know the entire staff and who does what. Hopefully, someone with a name will write back to you, and from there you can address them personally.

**Whether you are seeking representation from the gallery or an exhibition in their space, state clearly and simply what you’re interested in. If you just wrote “here is my amazing artwork!!”, you’re not asking for anything and you’re unlikely to get anything.

***Regardless of how busy the recipient is, there is a good chance they will click on a link to view your work, at least out of curiosity.

Common mistakes in an initial email to an art gallery:

Including too much information about your artwork or your practice in your initial email.

Since you haven’t had the courtesy to ask whether they are interested in looking at submissions, you are like an unwanted salesperson at someone’s door. Regardless of whether you have quality goods or not, your pushiness is a turn off.

Sending your initial email to more than one art gallery as a bulk mail-out, either CCing or BCCing recipients.

Although I don’t think it’s necessary to name your addressee on the first email, you should never email more than one gallery at a time. If you can’t be bothered to spend the time to write to them individually, why should they spend the time responding?

“Please find attached 18 images of my work.”

Unless a gallery has told you that they accept email submissions, or it is posted on their website, don’t send images as attachments. A link to your website or online portfolio is a much more subtle and non-invasive way to introduce your work.

“My work would be suitable for your gallery because____.”

It’s very presumptuous to think that you know what is suitable for the gallery. A curator or director will know what is suitable and what is not suitable. Many artists make the mistake of thinking that they will fit in a gallery because their work is just like an artist who is already represented. In actuality, it could make the artist less desirable. This is because the gallery may not want two artists of similar style.

“I would like to hear what you think of my work.”

Unfortunately, the gallery does not owe you anything. Nor do they have any obligation to critique your work on their own time. In reality, the people who work at art galleries just simply don’t have extra time to reply. If you are respectful of them as professionals, they will likely be respectful of you. You might receive a comment or two about your work, or even suggestions of galleries to submit to.

Have you had any luck (or any disasters!?) when approaching galleries? Have you found any other helpful tips?

Responses to “Approaching an Art Gallery: The Initial Email (an Example of What to Send)”

  1. Brennen McElhaney

    Great post! Here are some additional thoughts:

    If the gallery has a website, spend some time reviewing it. You might learn useful information such as:

    1.) Verify that you indeed wish to approach the gallery.
    2.) See what they want for an artist submission (If they spell out exactly what they want, and in what format, don’t ask! Come up with some other relevant question or point of clarification.)
    3.) Learn the name of the gallery director or owner (add to your Rolodex for future contact.)
    4.) Learn about upcoming openings or events, which you may attend or use as a future point of conversation. (If they have an email list, subscribe to it!)

    If the gallery is on your “A” list, I strongly recommend contacting them multiple times (perhaps monthly or quarterly). In addition to email, you may also consider sending them a prospecting letter. Here’s a detailed description of my personal art gallery prospecting package. > http://www.brennenmcelhaney.com/journal/?p=107

    Often, it takes multiple impressions to get into a gallery. Don’t give up if you get no response!

    1. thepracticalartworld

      Thanks Brennen, all excellent suggestions, especially your point about attending events. Your submission will likely receive much more attention if you have introduced yourself in person to the gallery staff.

      Also- I agree with your “don’t give up” suggestion but I’ll add to it: if you are sending multiple emails or packages to a gallery, refrain from calling them out if they never replied to you. Just keep sending them updates on your practice at regular intervals, unless they request that you don’t.

    2. Stephanie Jeanne Marie

      Hello and thank you for the great article @thepracticalartworld.
      @Brennen McElhaney I find your points really helpful too and tried to click on the link you provided for the exemple of your prospective package, it however does not seem to be working anymore… could you perhaps provide an updated link ?
      Many thanks,

  2. Douglas DeVivo

    If you have a strong desire to cold call a gallery don’t walk in with anything that looks like a portfolio ,a few postcards or an Ipad are great. Say your story clearly in as short as possible no more than about a minute and have your Ipad on slide show . Ask politely if they would like to see more or if not who they could recommend .
    This works well for me

  3. The ART House: Approaching a gallery – our top tips for artists. |

    […] would love to (we know we would!). Step one should be to send the gallery a quick, simple email asking if they are taking submissions at the […]

  4. Robert Marks

    Thanks for all these great pointers on approaching a art gallery to host an exhibition of my artwork you open my eyes to the harsh reality. I have done some of the don’ts with the gallery I continue to frame with .Do u think I should used your methods of approach and approach them professionally or research an other art gallery whom exhibit young artists like myself

  5. Cristina Del Sol

    Fantastic article, which has helped me a lot. It covers everything needed.
    Thank you!!

    But, a famous art advisor pointed to me that I should not concentrate in telling the galleries about ME-ME-ME so much ..??? Instead of talking about my art, why and how I do it, etc. concentrate mainly in telling them why I think they are a good match, what I like about them, their artists and so on. Later on if they want more information, they can ask…

    I followed your advice and submitted the information they require on the submissions guidelines only.

    I’m very confused.

  6. Zazie

    This is SUPER helpful, thank you! I was about to send an email with about 5 of the “violations” you suggest above and your advice and rationale against are very well stated. I’ll report back if I have any luck! 🙂

  7. Veta Frazier Banks

    I am so happy that I checked out my LinkedIn email on photography today. This link on how to approach potential galleries was extremely helpful and the depth of sharing is very much appreciated.
    I am an active senior, who retired after years in the teaching profession, due to injury. My passion is photography. I’ve had fun at arts fairs, but really wanted to approach galleries, restaurants or lounges,etc.
    The neophyte that I am, I did approach a gallery and the owner also offered this: Write a brief bio of not more than a page, including contact info; attach copies of two or three great copies of your best representations; make several copies & envelope them; research the establishments in your surrounding area; drop in personally asking for the manager, dropping off the envelope, and letting them know this is the work you do.
    I will try this soon, as I live in the Long Beach Arts District. I will also try the other suggestions offered.
    Much thanks and luck to all!

  8. shirin

    I want to send an email to an art gallery and I dont konw how can I present my work and negotiate about the initial fee that they will present me .


    Hi, I just came across this post and I can say it’s been very helpful. I’m trying to contact galleries to represent my husband who has already been in numerous exhibitions in the past. Browsing gallery websites I realize that some galleries have a contact information page where you fill out a format. My question is, should I just fill the format or send them an initial email straight from my email address? Does this really matter? and also, Is it good that I state that I’m representing him or should he be the one sending it?

    Thank you!

  10. How to Submit Your Artwork to a Gallery | The Practical Art World

    […] with the staff, and chat about whatever exhibitions they are showing. When you eventually send an initial email about submitting your artwork, the staff will be much more likely to give it proper consideration since they are familiar with […]

  11. How to Price your Art | The Practical Art World

    […] Need help getting more art exhibitions? Check out Approaching an Art Gallery: The Initial Email (an Example of What to Send) […]

  12. Art Gallery Submissions – Which Galleries? | The Practical Art World

    […] If you’re thinking about emailing a gallery, check out Approaching a Gallery: The Initial Email (An Example of What To Send) […]

  13. David Rogar

    Such a helpful guide on making that crucial first impression! Crafting a compelling email is indeed the gateway to establishing connections with galleries. Highlighting one’s passion and uniqueness while respecting the gallery’s ethos is key. Pearl Lam, an iconic figure in the global art scene, undoubtedly receives numerous inquiries. You can check out https://bit.ly/415wwVM to know more about her. Following the advice here could be the differentiator in catching the attention of someone as esteemed as her. Kudos for sharing such valuable insights!

Leave a Reply