At some point in their career nearly every artist/designer wants to exhibit their artwork. It’s a way to get feedback on what you’re doing. It also has the potential to enhance your career, professionally and financially. Exhibiting your work is generally a good thing to do, but it’s not always an easy thing to accomplish. In a few previous blog posts we discussed some exhibition possibilities you might explore. The first post looked at museums. The second post discussed art centers. This post is about galleries.
Showing artwork in a gallery is what most artists think about when they consider exhibiting. But there are different kinds of galleries and even those galleries that are similar to each other have their own specific agendas.
Galleries generally fall into these four categories:
1. Fine art galleries are usually found in medium to large cities. Most of them focus on a specific type of art or on a select group of artists. These kinds of galleries are run by art connoisseurs who sell almost exclusively to knowledgeable art collectors.
Here is a link to the Matthew Marks Gallery, a prestigious fine art gallery in New York City.
2. Gift shop/art galleries show smaller, decorative artworks, crafts and jewelry. These retail based galleries sell to casual collectors and walk-in customers who are looking for an interesting, unique personal item.
This is a link to Carolina Creations in New Bern, North Carolina.
3. Co-op galleries promote and sell artwork created by their members. Members of the co-op are responsible for managing and maintaining the gallery. They take turns exhibiting their artwork and volunteer their time to keep the gallery open for the public.
City Art is an artist run co-op located in San Francisco.
4. Not-for-profit galleries are often the public face of a larger group such as an art league, a crafts council or an art commission. Sometimes they are standalone alternative exhibition spaces dedicated to showing experimental artwork or the work of emerging younger artists. Not-for-profit galleries are generally the places where serious new artists get their first exhibitions.
The 1708 Gallery is a not-for-profit gallery in Richmond, Virginia.
As you can see not all galleries show all kinds of artwork, or work by any artist. Every gallery has an identity or a personality and your work or media may, or may not, fit in. If you want to show your art in a specific gallery you should do some research before you approach them. Most of them have websites that describe who they are and list the artists they represent. Visit the gallery in person and check them out online. You can see if they show artwork that is similar in style and media to yours (e.g. realistic paintings…photographs…abstract sculptures…etc.). You can find out if you need to be a member of their co-op. You can also get a sense of how comfortable you might be if you were to work with them.
The next blog post in this series will focus on how to approach the people who run an exhibition venue. What you should prepare in advance and what you can expect from the experience.