How to Get Your Work in an Art Gallery

Want to get work into an art gallery but unsure where to start with art submissions or how to find art galleries looking for new artists? Check out our guide!


Finally—your most coveted art gallery has put out an open call for artists. But how do you get your art noticed? This guide will show you how to ace those art submissions and score a spot in the most prestigious art galleries accepting new artists.

We know, we know: selling yourself and your art can feel a little strange at first, but this is one skill you definitely need to master. There are many art galleries looking for submissions from all different experience levels, and the resulting sales once you get your work in a gallery can be game-changing.

First: if you want to sell your art, you’re going to need representation, so your goal should be to establish a relationship with a gallery that will take you on and champion your work to potential buyers. Here’s how you hone those submission skills and get your art into clients’ hands.

Be Honest: Where Can I Display My Artwork?

You can save both your time and the time of gallery owners and curators by asking yourself a simple question before going forward with your submission: where can I show my art realistically?

Familiarize yourself with the past and current exhibitions at galleries you’re interested in, and take note of what kind of art they tend to represent. Decide if your art is in keeping with the themes, styles, and media typically displayed at a gallery before submitting.

National Gallery Of Art Artwork Vs. Local Indie Gallery Work

While high end galleries may occasionally take on lesser known artists, it’s more likely that you’ll have to reach a level of recognition or success before approaching large, well-funded galleries.

Like all businesses, each art gallery caters to a certain kind of clientele. Part of their job is to bring in artwork that they believe will resonate with their client base. If their collectors expect a certain perceived value of the paintings in their gallery, it can be confusing to see lower-cost, lesser known pieces introduced.

So, how do art galleries work with newcomers they find promising but aren’t ready to represent yet? They may still be able to help you by offering a critique of your portfolio. Make sure to express gratitude for any input you receive on your artwork, since you never know if your relationship with the curator or gallery owner may be valuable in the future.

The art world can feel quite small, and word travels fast, so always be respectful and kind when dealing with galleries.

Ensure Your Work Is Ready For Art Gallery Applications

Galleries looking for new artists want work that is memorable and unique—and keeps buyers excited for your next show.

  • Not sure if your work is gallery-ready? Ask yourself these questions:
  • Does my work reflect a unique artistic perspective?
  • Do I use interesting materials or techniques?
  • Does my body of work look like it was created by the same artist?
  • Would anyone want to display my work in their home?
  • Would anyone pay to see my pieces in person?
  • What is the inspiration behind my work?

Galleries looking for artists aren’t just doing so out of the goodness of their hearts; they are also in business to make money. Being represented by an art gallery means paying out a commission on all sales. Most artists feel that selling their work is much more difficult than creating it, so they’re fine with this trade off. Make sure you’re okay with sharing 50% of the sale price of your pieces before submitting your art gallery applications.

Attend Events at Art Galleries Looking For Artists

If you’re trying to get your work into galleries seeking artists, you need to be active in the art community so that art galleries looking for new artists get you on their radar. Read on to learn how to do just that.

Become A Regular Patron of Your Art Gallery of Choice

Before figuring out just how to approach art galleries, attend as many art gallery openings and shows as you can. Introduce yourself to gallery owners and curators. Familiarize yourself with the local success stories as well as the up-and-comers—they make great conversation-starters. Be friendly, but remember: you’re there as a spectator at someone else’s showcase.

Connect with fellow artists, and be supportive of their work. Some art galleries seeking new artists do not post calls for artist submissions, and the only way in is through a referral. This can come out of the blue from a fellow artist that admires your work, but it’s best to be proactive in networking with your colleagues. Take the time to build relationships so that other artists will want to help you out.

Take note of the work you’re seeing in galleries, especially your art gallery choices that you’d really love to see your work in. Certain galleries and curators may have a specific taste or favor a certain style in the work they select. It’s okay to ask what they are looking for, but don’t worry about changing your work to cater to one subjective opinion. Focus on finding a good fit for your existing work.

No venue is too small! If you’re trying to get your art in a gallery, smaller exhibitions are a great stepping stone, and easier to get into. Even a tiny coffee shop displaying your best pieces is something to add to your CV and an invite event to send to prospective gallery directors. Print out an invitation with a photo of your work on it and mail it to the right people.

Gain Exposure By Planning An Art Show Yourself

Planning an art show yourself can be a great way to expose more people, including curators and gallery owners, to your work. Look into potential event spaces in your area, including DIY galleries that can be rented for the evening, and consider including other artists if you’re fretting over how many pieces you need for an art show.

By including other artists, your art will get in front of their networks as well, expanding the reach of your show.

Create A Solid Online Presence Before Submitting Art to Galleries

Having an online art portfolio is essential when it comes to marketing yourself and submitting art to galleries seeking new artists. It’s a great platform to showcase your work—think of it as a gallery of your own, curated by you.

Ensure you have your own personalized website domain. Include your contact information, bio, artist statement and your CV if you’ve had your art shown anywhere before—a school exhibition counts! Don’t forget to include any press mentions. Need inspiration? Check out how fellow artists have set up their pages.

It’s super easy to create your site using an online portfolio website platform like Format. (Bonus: you can always try Format free for two weeks so you can experiment with layout designs and see if it works for you.)

Even better? You can monetize your website so you can sell prints directly, building your brand in the art community and making a little cash on the side. You don’t even need art galleries to sell your art; while you’re preparing your art submissions for art galleries looking for new artists, you can also sell work on your website!

Practice How To Submit Artwork To Galleries By Curating Your Art

When you’re figuring out how to submit work to art galleries successfully, you’ll learn that the art you include in your submissions is really important. Your portfolio website gives you the opportunity to master the important skill of curation.

Less is often more, and while it can be tempting to throw up every little project, you’ll come off as more skilled and professional if you highlight your best work without being too repetitive. By curating your portfolio website, you’ll get better at curating your selection before you submit art to a gallery as well.

Collaborate with other artists. If you feel like you don’t have that many pieces to showcase just yet, why not feature a quick and fun collaboration between you and your friends, whether it’s a video installation or a communal moodboard? Draw in fresh traffic while you expand and perfect your body of work.

Display Your Work in a Virtual Art Gallery

Don’t forget established online galleries. Saatchi is a well-known virtual art gallery and magazine that features artists from all over the world. You can buy and sell just about any type of art, for every budget. Whenever you are taking photos of your art, make sure to upload several high-quality images that are well-lit and reflect the true appearance and textures of the piece.

Format Prints Marketplace is another excellent option that is available to Format users.

How To Get Art In A Gallery By Thoroughly Researching Your Target Galleries

Take some of the guesswork out of how to get art gallery representation by narrowing down your target galleries to places that you think would be a great fit for your work and style. Learn about the director, curator, and owner as well as the submission rules. Document their submission guidelines and deadlines. Show that you are aware of the gallery’s guidelines and you will have a better chance of being selected.

Start by writing a letter of inquiry. There’s a pretty standard formula for writing a letter to a director of a gallery you want to target. Include the person’s name, brief descriptions of your background, your body of work, your artist’s statement, website, and why you think your art is a good fit for their gallery. Invite them to drop in on an exhibit that you’ve managed to secure from all that prior mingling—or even to your studio.

Follow up if you haven’t heard back in two weeks. It’s good to hear feedback. Always be respectful and courteous no matter the verdict. And you should ask if there’s anything you can do to improve. Figuring out how to get a gallery show involves trial, error, and rejection for most artists, so don’t be discouraged by the negative verdicts you’ll likely receive on the way to getting your work into a gallery.

art gallery

How To Get Your Photos In An Art Gallery

While the process of how to get your photography in a gallery isn’t too different from other types of art, there is something unique about the fact that you can actually carry finished examples of your work around with you easily.

Unlike other art forms, you can easily have high-quality prints on you in situations where they may come in handy. Don’t force them on people who aren’t interested, but if you find yourself in a conversation with someone who may be able to help you get your photos exhibited, having some prints you can leave with them can help keep you at the top of their mind.

How To Get Your Art Into A Gallery By Utilizing Local Resources

A great place to find open calls for artist submissions is through your municipal arts council. Provincial, state and federal arts councils also provide an online network for finding opportunities and resources to get your art exhibited.

Purchasing the supplies you need to create your art as well as display and transport it properly for every exhibition can add up. You may also apply for art council grant programs to help you fund and fuel local creative projects. (Here are some tips on how to write a better artist grant application.)

Online competitions are another great way to get more exposure while you’re figuring out how to get an art show of your pieces. They’re often free to enter and you could win a hefty cash prize. See what competitions and showcases you qualify for.

Learn How To Sell Art In A Gallery With An Effective Elevator Pitch

Work that elevator pitch if you want to start selling art galleries on your work. You should be able to talk about your art, your inspiration, and your themes freely and with pride—and convey the key selling points in 30 seconds or less.

Always have your business cards on hand: you never know when someone will ask for one. Tailor them to your style; it’s an amazing opportunity to put a little piece of your art in someone’s hand. Content-wise, stick to the essentials: a striking image, your name, website, and contact information. Part of mastering how to sell paintings to galleries is being prepared at any time in case you find yourself speaking to someone who could potentially help you reach your goal.

Be respectful. Don’t bombard people with emails and phone calls. You want to present yourself at the right time and at the right place. The best times to reach out to busy people are mid-week; avoid calling on Mondays or Fridays.

How To Get Your Art In a Museum Using Your Phone: Mastering Your Use Of Social Media

While you’re waiting to hear back from galleries, why not work on improving your social media content? That way, the galleries accepting artist submissions can find you, rather than the other way around. Make sure to have your brand guidelines in place first.

Think of Instagram as your agent. Make sure you post frequently, including photos of works in progress (don’t forget the #wip hashtag), time-lapse videos, and behind-the-scenes pics of your studio space. Process is as fascinating to others as the art itself. You can also increase your chances of being exhibited by growing an audience that is genuinely interested and invested in your work.

Use Instagram Business tools to add website and contact links, making it all the easier for art galleries to contact you if they’re interested in representing your work.

Keep in mind that your social media pages should be authentic to your brand identity as an artist, and be cohesive in style. Artists who nail this approach are @erinaart and @mishelart2.

Follow and engage with accounts that feature artists. Accounts like @mirthiferous feature sketch work and paintings from a wide range of artists. If you’re a photographer, @the.pinklemonade features eye-catching shots, inviting artists and photographers to DM for a feature or collaboration.

How To Get My Art Noticed By Sharing Skills

Got teaching skills? Try YouTube. Belarus native Daria Callie, for example, has a successful YouTube channel that teaches viewers how to oil paint through beautifully edited, informative short videos. Not only does she profit off of the channel views, but it also points prospective buyers to her Instagram and website. Art gallery owners scout artists with big followings knowing their work could generate a bidding war. There are also platforms like Teachable that you can use to create a course and get your artwork noticed. You can make money from admission to the course, while also establishing yourself as a thought leader and notable talent in your industry.

How To Display Art In A Gallery: Make Sure To Carefully Read Submission Instructions

Always prepare your art according to the submission instructions provided by the gallery. Make it easy for them to assess your work! Write the details out on the back of the canvas as directed, including measurements and hanging direction. Add a secure picture wire if required.

If you’re mailing in any physical pieces or your portfolio book to art gallery owners, package them very carefully and include prepaid postage to ensure their return. You don’t want to risk them getting lost in a pile or ending up in the bin.

Displaying artwork in a gallery is a major goal for many artists, and sometimes it’s these little touches of professionalism that can help set you apart in the eyes of curators.

How To Sell Art In A Gallery

It’s worth mentioning one of the most important things you’ll have to do after landing a gallery spot, and that’s actually selling art in a gallery. The gallery will invest time and resources in promoting your work, since they stand to get a 50 percent portion of the sales price, but you should also be doing your part to get buyers in the door.

Some ways you can do this include:

  1. Promote the gallery so that buyers don’t have to wonder where they can buy your work. Include it in your Instagram bio, mention it in posts, and include this information your website’s About page.
  2. Tap into your network to increase attendance at your shows. The gallery may host an event when they bring in your pieces, so encourage your friends and fans to join and increase the buzz.
  3. Include the gallery in your press releases and any other media, when appropriate.

One Final Thing: Beware of Vanity Art Galleries!

It can be a really exciting thing to have a gallery reach out to you, but taking them up on their offer may not always be in your best interest. Always do your research on any gallery that reaches out to you. Ask represented artists if they’re happy with their experience with the gallery before signing. Read all the terms and conditions thoroughly.

Be cautious of submission and exhibition fees. Reputable galleries make a commission off of artwork and admission sales from the public, not from the artists’ pockets. This is usually about 50% on the sale of two-dimensional artwork (paintings, photographs, monotypes, etc.), and anywhere from 33.3% to 40% for three-dimensional work.

Galleries that extend you a contract for displaying your work in exchange for money are called vanity galleries—avoid them! More often than not, it is a terrible investment for the artist, and carries zero prestige.

Need more tips on how to market your art? Check these out:
How To Get Your Art in a Movie or TV Show
10 Social Media Marketing Secrets You Need To Get More Clients
How To Write a Pitch That Gets You Published

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