Ask the Art Prof: How Do I Know I’m Ready to Start Approaching Art Galleries?

Unseen & Unknown: Opening Reception

“Should I wait until I have a more “mature” approach to start selling and approaching galleries? How do I know I’m ready?  I’m almost afraid, right out of school, and I’ve been doing a lot of experimenting, picking up new media, dropping old ideas, and basically making some massive disasters. What’s in my head and my dreams is always miles ahead than the ability of my hands, so I’m never happy.  My parents are pressuring me to show and sell but right now I just want to experiment, make a mess, and be left to my own devices.”

Before you approach galleries, the most important thing is to have one cohesive, mature body of work.  Most artists have at least 15-20 finished works for each body of work that they create, so quantity is certainly something to consider. The body of work should be thematically unified and be consistent in terms of the technical execution and use of materials.   Galleries don’t want to work with artists who are unpredictable in terms of their work.  They’re looking for a body of work that has a distinctive style that they can then promote and sell to their clients. The majority of galleries have a certain type of work that they show, so it’s also important that your body of work fits into that.

Opening reception

From what you’re describing about your current process, my advice would be to hold off on approaching galleries at this point in time, despite the pressure that your parents are exerting on you. Considering that you are right out of school, I think it’s actually quite appropriate that you are experimenting with your work the way that you are.  I’m sure that it’s probably quite liberating after working within the constraints of an academic setting for several years. What you’re doing is an important part of your development and transition from being a student into the professional world.

So how do you know that you’re ready to approach galleries?  Eventually, your work will start to form patterns and routines in your technical process and your conceptual thinking. You’ll notice after a while that the level of experimentation will start to die down.  You’ll begin to focus much more on a single theme and material.  My recommendation is to never force a body of work on yourself prematurely, the work will end up looking contrived.

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Ask the Art Prof Live is a weekly live video broadcast on my Facebook page where I provide professional advice for art students and professional artists. Ask the Art Prof began as a written column in 2013 and was featured in the Huffington Post from 2013-2015.  Ask me your questions by commenting on the live video post as the video streams, and I’ll answer right away. I’ll discuss being an artist today, art technique & materials, work strategies for artists, career advice, teaching art, and more. Like my Facebook page and you’ll receive a notification when each live video begins.

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Related articles
“How do I leave my gallery?”
“How do you sell your art?”
“How do I approach a gallery?”
“How do museums select artists to exhibit? What is museum quality work?”

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