How to get your work featured in an art gallery

Image of Carrie Colton of Studio Sixty Six
Carrie Colton, Studio Sixty Six

Getting your work featured takes more than just great talent. After spending some time getting acquainted with a photographer and their work, we roll up our sleeves and start building a marketing & PR plan together. One of the very first questions we are inevitably asked is… ‘How do I get my work featured in a gallery?

Meet Carrie Colton, Director and Curator of Studio Sixty Six, an Ottawa art gallery devoted to showcasing emerging artists from in and around the Ottawa area and across Canada.
Carrie was kind enough to answer our FAQ in the following blog style interview, starting with how to approach a gallery – to what happens after the show…

What do you look for in work you represent? 

Studio Sixty Six: I look for artwork that is visually dynamic and well composed. I look for things like balance, texture, rhythm, composition and scale. Artwork that is finely crafted, solidly constructed, produced and finished. Artwork that is clever, thought provoking and interesting. Art that or makes one feel something whether that be, joy, pain, excitement or humour, perhaps asks a question of the viewer. Work that is offering something fresh and a new approach to genre or materials.

What is the best way for a photographer to approach a gallery? 

Studio Sixty Six: Email is best. Never show up with art work without an appointment. Following up the email after a week, if you have not heard back is fine. A polite phone call stating that you sent a submission and are wanting to confirm it was received is good as well.

What should (s)he prepare in advance to be considered? 

Studio Sixty Six: An email submission should include:

How does the gallery / photographer relationship work? 

Studio Sixty Six: It depends on the gallery but generally if a gallery agrees to represent your work on their website and on their walls they will ask you not to be represented by other galleries in that city. Galleries generally take 50% of the sale. We give photographers 100% of the cost of the frame if the artist has had the print framed. Galleries are also a great source of support to their artists, (or they should be!) via advice, connections, critiquing your art work etc…

What’s involved in getting ready for a show – from the artists’ perspective? Specifically, what should a photographer expect to provide and what can (s)he do to ensure the show is a success? 

Studio Sixty Six: An artists is required to provide all text information about themselves and their work going in the show well ahead of time, (typically a month before), as well as high and low resolution images of the work. The work should be dropped off a few days before the show, ready to hang.

The most successful shows are the ones where an artist participates fully in the marketing and promotion of the show. We encourage artists to invite all their contacts, distribute the show postcards and promote the show through social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc…

It’s also important to be at the opening event well dressed and on time – until the end of the evening. We ask all artists to be friendly and ready to talk about their work!

What happens after the opening?

Studio Sixty Six: After the opening, photographers should bring people by the gallery over the course of the show and send the curator contacts for those who did not attend the opening, but you would like to have receive a personal invite to see your work. It’s important to be in constant communication with the gallery and ensure response to email inquires asap.

After the show comes down the work is either picked up by the artist or kept as inventory. The work will generally be available on the gallery website under the artist’s name if they have agreed to an ongoing relationship.

What final piece of advice do you have for a new or emerging photographer who wants to be featured in a gallery showing? 

Studio Sixty Six: Take courses and learn about the history of fine art photography. Present yourself positively and professionally when meeting or talking to a gallery director / curator and as mentioned previously, ensure you have a high quality website.

About the Author
Deanna White is owner and publicist for storylinePR, exclusive PR firm & marketing agent to Ottawa’s most talented fine art photographers. “Because we know instead of marketing your work, you’d much rather be creating it.”