Caroline Jackman, Talent Development Manager for Crafts Council UK shares her top tips on how to approach galleries.
1. Do your research
Finding the right gallery for you and your work is a crucial step in working with galleries. Each gallery will have their own curation style and particular audience, usually it is connected to their locality. By understanding who would buy your work, you would find it easier to choose the right galleries for you.
In your research, consider:
- Their focus e.g. applied arts, craft, fine art, sculpture
- The exhibitions they have put up previously
- The kind of work they display/sell – does your work suit their style?
- Is the gallery space actually a venue for hire?
- Are they open to proposals?
- Who do they represent currently?
- How far are they from you? – This might have an effect to your decision if you need deliver or post your work.
- Do you know anyone that has been represented in the galleries? – You may want to ask about their experience and what they needed to supply to the gallery
- What is their pricing structure? Is it similar to yours?
2. Choose the right way to approach galleries
Different gallery curators has their own particular way they would like artists to approach them. Some of them might not want any approaches.
According to Saffron Wynne, Exhibitions Manager of Devon Guild of Craftsmen:
Something you shouldn’t ever do is to just walk in to a gallery without any appointment with your work and expect them to have a look at your work.
Do not simply walk in to a gallery with your work in hand.
What you could do is in your research also find out:
- Who makes the decision in the gallery
- What do they like?
- Is the gallery on any social media?
Several possible approaches:
- Call up or visit the gallery and find out from them how to apply and who to apply to
- Sending a very personal letter/ mail. Making sure that you are writing to the right person and present how your work is suitable to their curation style.
- Instagram – A lot of curators look for work in this social media, through the correct hashtags or the people they already follow.
- Applications -this could be available on their website as a commission, exhibition or daily sales.
3. Communicate effectively with galleries
When you decide the right approach for the right gallery, make sure you communicate to them concisely and clearly. Any communication you make with galleries should include the address of your website. Having a good, and working website that displays good images of your work is crucial.
Letter or email approach
Include in the main letter:
- Who you are, in maximum 2 sentences
- What makes you think that your work is suitable for their gallery?
- Statement about your practice
- Your contact details – include links to your website and social media sites
- Max. 5 good quality images of your work – make sure that they are under 1 MB each
Attached – only if it is necessary
- 1 page CV – if on email – this should be in a PDF format
Ensure you have an active Instagram account, that particularly concentrates on your work, not your daily life, unless they relate to your work. Good images of your work and the process of producing them is always really helpful to receive attention from gallery curators.
- Follow curators and galleries on Instagram
- Like their relevant posts
- Start conversation by commenting on their Instagram account
- Follow up with direct message to them
- Make contact via comment or direct message, when it is the right time. State why you are contacting them and why you think your work is relevant to them.
Caroline has over 20 years’ experience in working in the arts and working to support the business and creative development of artists and makers from amateurs to established professionals.
Find out more about the Crafts Council UK Talent Development programme and online resources here
Illustration by Bridie Cheeseman