*2006 Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market Excerpt
Types of Galleries:
As you search for the perfect gallery, it’s important to understand the different types of spaces and how they operate. The route you choose depends on your needs, the type of work you do, your long term goals and the audience you’re trying to reach.
Retail or commercial galleries. The goal of the retail gallery is to sell and promote artists while turning a profit. Retail galleries take a commission of 40 to 50 percent of all sales.
Co-op galleries. Co-ops exist to sell and promote artists’ work, but they are run by artists. Members exhibit their own work in exchange for a fee, which covers the gallery’s overhead. Some co-ops also take a commission of 20 to 30 percent to cover expenses. Members share the responsibilities of gallery-sitting, sales, housekeeping and maintenance.
Rental galleries. The gallery makes its profit primarily through renting space to artists and consequently may not take a commission on sales (or will take only a very small commission). Some rental spaces provide publicity for artists, while others do not. Showing in this type of gallery is risky. Rental galleries are sometimes thought of as “vanity galleries” and, consequently, they do not have the credibility other galleries enjoy.
Nonprofit galleries. Nonprofit spaces will provide you with an opportunity to sell work and gain publicity but will not market your work aggressively, because their goals are not necessarily sales-oriented. Nonprofits normally take a small commission of 20 to 30 percent.
Museums. Though major museums generally show work by established artists, many small museums are open to emerging artists.
Art consultancies. Generally, art consultants act as liaisons between fine artists and buyers. Most take a commission on sales (as would a gallery). Some maintain small gallery spaces and show work to clients by appointment.
A Few Guidelines:
1. Never walk into a gallery without an appointment, expecting to show your work to the gallery director. When we ask gallery directors for pet peeves they always discuss the talented newcomer walking into the gallery with paintings in hand. Send a polished package of about 8 to 12 neatly labeled, mounted duplicate slides of your work submitted in plastic slide sheet format. (Refer to the listings in our books for more specific information on each gallery’s preferred submission method.) Do not send original slides, as you will need them to reproduce later. Send a SASE, but realize you may not get your packet returned.
2. Seek out galleries that show the type of work you create. Each gallery has specific “slant” or mission.
3. Visit as many galleries as you can. Browse for a while and see what type of work they sell. Do you like the work? Is it similar to yours in quality and style? What about the staff? Are they friendly and professional? Do they seem to know about the artists that the gallery handles? Do they have convenient hours? If you are interested in galleries outside your city and you can’t manage a personal visit before you submit, read the listing carefully in our books to make sure you understand what type of work is shown in that gallery and get a feel for what the space is like. Ask a friend or relative who lives in that city to check out the gallery for you.
4. Attend openings. You’ll have a chance to network and observe how the best galleries promote their artists. Sign each gallery’s guest book or ask to be placed on galleries’ mailing lists. That’s also one good way to make sure the gallery sends out professional mailings to prospective collectors.