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, so big sales may be just around the corner.
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.
Reflect on Your Work
Art galleries 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?
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.
Be Active in the Art Community
If you’re trying to get your art into an art gallery, 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 that.
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 galleries 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—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.
Create A Solid Online Presence
Having an online art portfolio is essential when it comes to marketing yourself and targeting art 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. Try these tips:
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 platform like Format, which is set up for artists to display their work. (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!
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 collabo 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.
Don’t forget established online galleries. Saatchi is a has 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.
Do Your Research
Narrow in on your target galleries: places that you think would be a great fit for your work and style. Get to know the names of the director, curator, and owner, as well as the rules for submission. Keep note of their rules for artist submissions as well as their deadlines.
Write 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.
Utilize Local Resources
A great place to find open calls for artist submissions is through your municipal arts council, like the Toronto Art Council opportunities page, for example, if you happen to be located in Toronto. Provincial, state and federal arts councils also provide an online network for finding opportunities and resources for all kinds of artists.
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 also a great way to get more exposure and impress curators from art galleries looking for new artists. They’re often free to enter and you could win a hefty cash prize. See what competitions and showcases you qualify for.
Practice Positioning Yourself as an Artist
Work that elevator pitch. 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.
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.
Use Social Media to Promote Your Art
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. The art is important, but the process is just as fascinating to other folks.
The WallApp lets followers, buyers, and designers see how your work would work in different spaces. Just upload photos of your work into the app, and browse through a variety of different spaces you want to see it hanging in.
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. Some artists who nail this approach are @erinaart, @mishelart2, and @willeys_art.
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.
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, it points prospective buyers to her Instagram and website. Art gallery owners scout artists with big followings knowing their work could generate a bidding war.
Read All the 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.
One Final Thing: Beware of Vanity Art Galleries!
It can be 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