Whether you're an emerging or experienced artist, finding gallery representation can be difficult to navigate. The truth is, there is no cookie-cutter strategy for putting your best foot forward when presenting your portfolio, as every gallery has a unique audience, brand, and style of work they look to exhibit in their space. So, where do you start? Here are some tips for making submissions that stand out based on our expertise here at Jack Rabbit.
Now that you've found a handful of galleries that you feel align with you and your work, it's time to get in touch. While you may be tempted to bring by your portfolio in person because pictures just don't do your art justice, this is typically (almost always) not a preferred method by galleries today for a number of reasons. Instead, check out their website and read their submission directions carefully! Most galleries will ask for a variation of the following to be sent in digitally:
Portfolio (typically 5-10 images of your current body of work)
A biography and CV/resume
Your art website
Before sending in your application, you want to be sure these materials are up-to-date and tailored to the specifications of the gallery you are submitting to. Remember, you know your work is amazing, but the gallery isn't on that same level yet! The goal here is to make a spot-on first impression, and following their directions is an assured way of doing so.
PRO TIP: If you're able to find the Gallery Director's name listed on the website, addressing your application materials to them specifically gives it a more personal touch.
As we mentioned before, the submission directions will typically ask you to include a few documents to gain an understanding of what your work is like. Here is a breakdown of tips for making the best versions of each of those to stand out.
Having quality images of your artwork is arguably the most important part of your application. This is likely the first time the gallery is seeing what your work looks like, so it's imperative to make sure these photos represent your work in the best possible light! There's no need to splurge on a new camera to take application-ready artwork photos - your phone is a perfectly adequate tool if you use it properly.
This image is clear, centered, and free of distractions. Don't be afraid to lightly edit your images, as often times cameras can obscure the colors and warp the shape slightly. However, be sure your corrections are as true-to-life as possible.
This image is blurry, off-center, and the artwork is on the floor! Be sure to communicate that you respect and value your own artwork by properly displaying it in your images.
Accompanying your image files with detailed information about the work is key. While digital applications can make it difficult to experience the full effect of the artwork, including details allows galleries to visualize how the work will fit into their space more effectively. While some will have very specific guidelines, others will be more open-ended. One safe approach is to include details in the image file name, for example, "name_medium_36x36_2020" communicates the title, medium, dimensions, and year of the artwork concisely. Another approach could be to compile the images and details in a PDF file for an easy viewing experience. Always list the dimensions of your work as height x width x depth if applicable.
YOUR BIOGRAPHY, ARTIST STATEMENT, AND RESUME
In the biography section, the gallery is interested in learning a little bit about you and where you're at in your career. If you have a CV, the biography section on that document is perfectly sufficient. Keep in mind that most galleries receive a high volume of submissions, so keeping this brief is encouraged.
Your artist statement should also be fairly concise (one page or less if possible!) and address the what, how, and why questions your artwork is answering. Some questions to consider as you're writing could be "What are you making?" "What methods are you using to do so?" "Why are you making this work?" Try your best to avoid vague statements and cliche phrases in your final draft.
Your art experience listed on your CV or resume will answer the question of how long you have been a practicing artist for, and give insight into where you're at in your career. If you're an emerging artist with little to no experience, don't be afraid to apply to galleries anyway! Many specifically look for new talent to exhibit, especially for group shows. For formatting inspiration, find an established artist you admire and search for their resume or CV on their website. Be sure to have someone proofread yours before clicking send!
In the year 2020, having a professional website for your artwork is a must. No need to hire a web developer, today there are many web hosting services that make it easy to create simple portfolio sites. Again, check out the website of an artist you look up to and use their formatting as a template! Your website is a direct extension of your artwork itself, so make sure its design elements align with your desired image as an artist. If you don't already have an artist Instagram or Facebook page, now is the time to branch out! Being active on social media is a wonderful way to gain exposure for your artwork, and will also make it easier for galleries and collectors to learn more about what you do.
You've finally sent off your perfected application to your gallery of choice! Now what?
All galleries tend to handle their submissions a little differently. In some instances, you'll get lucky and the gallery will respond with a decision right away. In others, it can take quite a while before a gallery gives you a yes, no, or a we'll keep your submission on file for future exhibitions. Planning shows usually happens well in advance of their opening date, so be patient! As your artwork evolves, continue to send your portfolio to galleries you're interested in working with if you feel your updated body of work would fit well with their group of artists.
Wishing you the best luck,