Approaching art galleries for the first time

Friends and family have been admiring your art for a long time and their walls are adorned with countless examples. They might even have paid you for it on occasion. They’re also the ones encouraging you to take the next step and promote your work to a wider audience.

High street galleries are one of the obvious avenues to explore. Having said that, I'm always surprised by the number of relatively successful artists I meet who don't consider this a realistic option. They each have their own reasons but I’ve noticed that common threads are intimidation (though I have yet to meet an unfriendly gallery owner), and, understandably, a fear of rejection.

I certainly remember the first time I approached a gallery. The internet didn't exist in the way it does today, so it was a question of walking in off the street with some examples of my work and an awful lot of trepidation. I am fairly sure that if that first gallery had said "no", that would have been it; I doubt I'd have had the courage to move on and try somewhere else. Fortunately, they said "yes" and went on to sell a lot of paintings for me over the next few years. It also gave me the confidence to make successful approaches to other galleries across the North West.

Having relocated and recently taken up painting again, I am going through the same process in Wales. Things are a little different now; the internet makes it a lot easier to do research, make initial contact and submit examples of your work. Although pressing "send" on an email can raise the heart rate just as much as walking through a gallery’s door; you've only got one shot and there aren't so many galleries in Wales that you can afford to blow opportunities. Fortunately, I’ve once again had a lot more “yeses” than “nos”. However, those rejections (and consequent knocks to confidence) could easily have been avoided if I'd followed some simple rules:

  • Research potential galleries, either by visiting them or checking out their website. Identify those that sell work of a similar genre and price to yours. As an emerging artist, put aside higher-end galleries that only sell work by established artists with a price tag to match. That day will come – I have a list of galleries that I wouldn’t dare approach just yet! Avoid galleries that focus on lower-end mass-produced prints. And galleries that only display the work of the resident artist(s) are not generally going to be an option

  • Get professional. Your website should be live and a social media presence