Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hey art galleries, suppliers are just as important as buyers

Getting your work shown in a gallery has been and will always will be a challenge.  But I don't understand why there is still so much mystique about approaching a gallery.  Not only is it a challenge to get shown by a gallery it's often a challenge just to get the courtesy of a rejection from a gallery. 

The art market has changed a lot over the past 10-15 years with the rise of the internet.  Artists can put up a website and potentially expose their work to millions of potential buyers.  Heck, that's how I began and still earn much of my income. But galleries are still important to artists, as artists are crucial to galleries.   There is a great advantage to being represented by a gallery.  Your work reaches people who might not consider searching the web for art, and very importantly it allows buyers to see the work in person.  There is also the cachet one earns by being able to add "gallery representation" to ones resumé.

While the internet has been helpful to artists, I think many galleries see it as a threat for the very same reasons. But just as there is also a downside to the internet for artists (image stealing, bootlegging etc.) there is an upside for galleries.  They can also now reach millions of potential buyers beyond just those that walk into their show rooms.

Another thing they can do, which I don't often see, and is the point of this posting, is attract artists. Yet, galleries seem to have a notorious reputation for putting up an obstacle course for artists.  It's as if they put themselves on a mountain top to make themselves unattainable and therefore more desirable.  Of course this is not true of all galleries, and I personally have had very good experiences and relationships with some.  That idea of being difficult and unapproachable doesn't really work so much anymore, when today, artists have other options...like the aforementioned personal online galleries.

I think of it like this, if you had a gourmet food store wouldn't you want to discover and sell the most exotic and unique products that fit your style?  Wouldn't you then want to make it easy for the food makers to show you their products so you can have the best selection in your store and make your store THEE go to place for your type of gourmet food?  Why wouldn't a gallery use this same approach? 

If a gallery does have a website, they could provide artists guidelines on what they are looking for, the best way to submit a portfolio to them and tips on what they'd like to see in it? Or at least provide contact information to a person who will answer questions or peruse their submission and respond back.  Suppliers of what you're selling are just as important as the buyers.  You wouldn't make a buyer jump through hoops to make a purchase or ignore inquiries from buyers?  You should treat the suppliers, the artists, the same as a buying customer.  You could be turning away a hot new discovery or ignoring an artist who has been successful in one part of the country and is now looking to expand to another market.

Galleries should be cultivating and building stronger relationships with artists not alienating them. The internet is not going away, use it's positives rather than cursing it's negatives.

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