Don’t Blow It Now: Making the Most of Studio Visits and Gallery Interviews
“You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.”
If you are lucky enough to have scheduled a gallery interview or studio visit, it’s a good idea to keep some key issues in mind. Your goal is to make sure this will be an enjoyable and profitable experience for all concerned. Showing your work and/or having people in your studio can be a major stressor for most artists. You need to prepare yourself emotionally, as well as prepare your studio visually, for a lay person to be able to absorb what your work is about. This doesn’t mean you need to clean up clutter, or change the way you work, but, it does mean you need to give some thought to how much work is laid out for people to see, and how it is laid out. Before you begin to prepare for a gallery interview or studio visit, take a moment to write down your goals. What do you want this person (or people) to go away feeling, thinking, about you and your work? Then, work backwards, and make sure you do everything that will help move you towards that goal. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Be prepared to talk about your work in an intelligent way. Be able to note your major influences, sources of your imagery, and discuss your particular medium. Be ready to answer questions about your technique. Have a clear understanding of where you fit into the current contemporary art market and the role of your work in an art historical context. Here is a quick and easy way to put together a professional artist’s statement (or at least to think about it.) Just fill in the blanks:
(Artist’s Name) most often works in the medium of (painting/sculpture/photography/etc) The most current body of work is from his/her (name the series or body of work) which continues his/her basic investigation/exploration into (nature/psychology/the cosmos/animal behavior/abstraction/landscape/fantasy or whatever else you can think of). (Artist name) has been exhibiting publicly for over (#) years and is a graduate of (college or university) His/her work can also be seen (in the following public collections or commercial gallery)
If you are walking into a gallery for an appointment, stop for a moment to observe the exhibition. After all, if you want them to be interested in your work, you should express an interest in theirs. Gallery dealers invest more than time and money in the artists they represent. The installation of an exhibition, selection of the work, is the gallery director’s form of creativity. Show an appreciation of their efforts.
- Be aware of the personal space around you. Don’t walk in carrying an unwieldy load of 30 paintings. Arrive carrying only what you can comfortably carry in one hand, preferably your left, to make your right hand available for shaking. Greet the person with a handshake; offer them a resume to look at, while you go back out to the car to fetch the rest of your work. At least that way you have made a decent first impression.
- Allow the dealer and/or collector to conduct the interview. Don’t jump in with a prepared text explaining your work. Give them a moment to look at the work and absorb what they are seeing — don’t be afraid of silence. Don’t put more than 10-12 pieces of art out at one time. That is the maximum amount of visual information the brain can absorb without overload. Pick one obscure thing in one piece to point out, use that as an opening to generate questions.
- Keep in mind that viewing art is a very personal experience. There is nothing you can do to “sell” them on your work. It’s not like selling shoes. They will either respond to it or they won’t. Allow them the option of turning you down gracefully. And, remember, it is not a personal rejection of YOU. It merely means that that particular gallery doesn’t feel they have a market for your work. Most frequently if a gallery is at all interested, they will ask to be kept abreast of your progress. Best case scenario, they may want to keep a few pieces on consignment. Be prepared for this. If they seem to genuinely like your work, but can’t handle it now, don’t interpret that as a rejection. Be certain to follow up in six months or so with new work. If you feel it is appropriate, you may ask if they have any recommendations of other galleries, whom they feel would be receptive to your work.
- For gallery visits, always send a thank you note for their time indicating how much you appreciate their personal attention and feedback. For studio visits, be sure to have a guestbook for people to sign (including email addresses). This will give you a chance to send an email blast before your next event and eventually grow a data base of interested fans of your work. It is also a good idea to have a postcard or brochure that has an image of your work and your contact information, for people to take away with them.
Regardless of the outcome, congratulate yourself for making to effort to get your work “out there.” If only one more person became aware of your work, as a result of your efforts, then you have succeeded!