So, you want your artwork in a gallery? Article by Gerald Tobola, Gallery Owner
For an artist, placing your artwork in a consignment art gallery is a big step. There are a number of things that you will need to do to be prepared. Hopefully, this article will help you through the process and assist you in deciding if a gallery setting is right for you.
The first step is to create your artwork. Creativity is a hard thing to define. It’s different for each one of us. But what I do know is that, creativity is born out of passion for your work. Through my five years experience as a gallery owner, I have observed that customers are drawn to artwork that has been created from the artists’ heart and soul, as opposed to a technique that has been learned in a class. While I encourage artists to take classes (to learn new techniques), it is imperative that you also figure how to adapt what you learn to fit your style. Strive to create artwork that has never been seen before.
Creating work for a gallery might demand a different thought process in the way you finish your work. After all, the hope is that someone will like your work well enough to take it home to enjoy. Think about the big picture - what happens when they take it home? Did I create it with enough quality that the piece will last a lifetime? Does it hang correctly? Does it wobble on the shelf? Is it too glossy? Does it stand crooked? Did I properly integrate the base with the actual artwork? These are just some of the things you need to address before you take your work to a gallery. My advice is to pretend that you are a buyer and have just bought your artwork to take home. Go through the same steps that a buyer has to go through when they get home. If the piece is required to hang, then hang it on your wall. Does it hang like it’s supposed to? Did you use a suitable bracket or hanging mechanism? Get an understanding of what the buyer will go through to display your work when they take it home. This is the time to be critical of your own work. Sometimes it takes the opinion of another person or friend to see the obvious. Another exercise is to ask yourself, “Would I buy this artwork?” If you wouldn’t, then you can’t expect someone else to either. Finally, do not rely on the gallery owner to finish your work for you - it is not their job - be sure to completely finish your work before the gallery visit.
Once you have completed all the above, you are now ready to approach a gallery. But before doing that, first do some research on the gallery you are interested in doing business with. Once again, pretend you are a shopper by visiting the gallery. Is the gallery clean? Were you acknowledged when you came through the door? Did you have a good feeling by being there? Was the artwork tastefully displayed? Your initial impressions will likely be the same as other shoppers and can help you decide if that particular gallery is a good fit for you and your work.
When you have chosen the gallery that best suits your needs, make an appointment with the gallery owners to show your work. Keep in mind that the gallery personnel will interview you, as it’s their decision if they want to represent you. However, you need to interview them as well. Ask questions, such as: Do they have insurance that will cover your work in case of a fire, theft, breakage, etc.? What is their payment schedule? What is their consignment fee? Just get a general idea of how they conduct their business. If you feel uncomfortable, don’t feel obligated to place your work in that gallery. Believe it or not, in my gallery, the customer is not my number one priority; it is the artist. I feel that if I have done my job with my artists, then the customer will come automatically. To promote healthy creativity, I believe in keeping my artists as happy as possible. After all, an art gallery cannot be in business without artists.
Pricing your work is about the hardest thing an artist needs to do. In my gallery, it is a team effort to decide the value. Together, we have to decide what the market can stand, especially with the current economic situation. Try to be flexible. In most cases, you can’t add the consignment percentage onto the price. Remember that you (and the gallery) are trying to sell your work, and there is a real cost of doing business that has to be factored into the selling price. You have to establish a common ground with the gallery that will result in a win-win situation.
Finally, I strongly recommend that you have an “artist card” that tells a small portion of your story. Customers like to hear stories about artists. This is what connects the buyer to the artist. Without this connection, there is a good chance they will not purchase the item. As a gallery owner, I cannot tell you how many times I am asked for an artist card.
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it to be helpful as you navigate this process. Take it from me: I am an artist, as well as the gallery owner, so I know how both sides need to work together.
Gerald Tobola, Copper Artist and Gallery Owner, Copper Shade Tree - an American fine craft gallery
206 E. Mill St., Round Top, Texas www.coppershadetree.com
Thanks to Gerald for this great article! * Before contacting Gerald, please note that Copper Shade Tree Gallery only accepts art from Texas artisans.