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-   -   Gallery mentality (http://portraitartistforum.com/showthread.php?t=5879)

Heidi Maiers 05-26-2005 11:28 AM

Gallery mentality
Since the shows I

Rob Sullivan 05-26-2005 12:19 PM

Well, Heidi - given the caliber of your work, I'll have to say that you've just had some bad luck in contacting some pretty rude people. I'm not trying to gush to make you feel better, but your sculpture is very professional, not to mention aesthetically beautiful, and I wonder at the lack of response (and lame responses) of the places you'd contacted. Perhaps they're just daft, and they couldn't sell their way out of a wet paper bag with Andy Wyeth temperas on their walls. Or, like I said, they're just plain rude. Either way, you don't want those types repping your work.

Being a consummate Yank, I have no clue as to the market there in the Southwest save the things I see in Southwest Art Magazine. And I know the majority of that stuff is overly commercial: stereotypical cowboys 'n' Indians silliness - like everyone wants to be Frederic Remington and are doing a really poor job of it. If I may parallel the market here, we have lighthouses 'n' lobster boat silliness, subject to equally bad execution.

There is plenty of room around the stereotyped genres, though. You just have to know where the boundaries are, and which galleries are successfully testing those boundaries. I recommend visiting the gallery personally, with no intention of meeting the proprietor. Just get a feel for the place. How does the current show look? Is it hung properly/displayed well? Is it a good space for sculpture?Look at all the artists repped by that gallery and ask yourself if you would feel comfortable showing alongside them. Regardless of genre, does all the work reflect a high quality?

Sometimes, beggars can't be choosers - but you can't sell yourself short just because you're getting impatient or fed up, either. Having visited several spaces, I would then compose a letter to set up a meeting, and make it clear that you had visited, and comment specifically on their artists, good lighting, whatever. It shows them that you've taken the time to research, and you stroke their ego at the same time. That will at least elicit a polite response.

I must say that I was fortuitously blessed in my experience. I actually lived in the building where the gallery was located. They have been in business for nearly 20 years, and I already knew that they were one of 2 places in Portland that were considered top-end. I needed framing for a show out of town, and when I brought the work into the frame shop, one of the gallery owners saw it and was taken by it. After a half-hour discussion, they set me up in a 3 artist show for the fall of that season.

I grant you, it's much easier to tote medium-sized paintings around casually than to lug a bronze around. But the key is t have people see the physical work. Slides and 'folios are one thing, but the impact of the actual artwork is what sells. You can write or talk all day long - but the artwork is the hook.

This is probably not new info for you, Heidi, but I wanted to at least give you a positive spin on this weird business.

Best of luck, Heidi. I'm in your corner!

Heidi Maiers 05-26-2005 04:55 PM

Thanks for your reply Rob, and thanks for the reaffirmation that I approached this matter correctly. I did visit about 30 galleries and it was easy to narrow my selection down to a handful by eliminating the ones that were totally cowboy and Indian (ho-hum), abstract, or had no sculpture. When I visited, I didn

Marcus Lim 05-26-2005 09:37 PM

[QUOTE=Heidi Maiers]

Anthony Emmolo 05-27-2005 12:00 PM

Hello Heidi,

Good luck in your attempts. You'll do fine if you just keep pushing in a single direction. I don't know if I'm lucky or not, but I am four out of five in picking up a gallery on the day I set out looking. Carmel CA, Napa CA, Scottsdale AZ and here in Shanghai, China. I will tell you my way of doing it, and my philosophy:

First of all get a very professional portfolio. I had mine customized to the exact size I wanted, which included a place to keep post cards and a video of an interview with a local cable TV channel. The thought was that without even opening the portfolio I wanted the gallery to know that I was a serious professional.

Then, I went early in the morning to the chosen gallery district and walked the streets. In my bag was my portfolio and in my car were two originals. (The originals are needed, because a gallery usually won't make a decision upon seeing a portfolio.) The plan was to just talk to staff in the gallery without even mentioning that I was an artist unless the time felt right. I spoke about the paintings I liked, asked about the artists, turned the conversation to my own experiences as well as the experiences of the person I was talking to, and then if the time felt right, I'd mention my portfolio. Done that way, I've never been treated rudely. People enjoy looking, and four out of five times I was accepted into the gallery. When do I feel that the time is right to mention my portfolio? When I begin to see the person genuinely enjoying the conversation and there are no customers in the gallery needing the help of that particular salesperson. If people like you, they will be warm with you. Then, upon seeing your portfolio, if they feel they can make money off of you, they will have an interest in what you have to offer.

If you are like me, you'll be a little nervous talking to the gallery staff at the beginning of the day. You'll need to warm up. Upon finding the gallery that you want to approach, warm up on galleries that will have no interest in you. Galleries who feature artists who died 100 or more years ago are a good place to warm up. Just talk about the art you enjoy, and have fun.

Keep all name cards and once you are out of sight of the gallery, stop and write notes on the back of the card. A physical description of the person you spoke to, and what you spoke about. Whether you get accepted by a gallery that day or not, keep these name cards and write thank you notes to all of them. Remind them who you are by mentioning what you talked about. Then, whenever you visit the gallery district, stop in and say hello to the people. They will be your connections in the district incase things don't go well with your gallery. Make friendships. It is a networking skill worth learning.

READ, READ AND REREAD "HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE" by Dale Carnegie. It is filled with terrific ways into human relations and it is a fun read.

At the moment I am still in two of the four galleries that I mentioned. One didn't sell very well, so I had to leave the gallery. (Maybe that was my mistake, I don't know.) The other gallery that I left was due to them hiding sales once I moved away from California. Your mention of waiting a year for payment makes me wonder if I jumped the gun there as well. They sold 19 paintings in 18 months and then I moved to Shanghai and they stopped telling me aboput sales. Then, when I did find out about sales, they took about eight months to pay. That never happened when I was living in The USA. Now I don't have that gallery and I miss the sales. So, I guess it is good to think before we act. However, it was probably still smart to leave the gallery. As they begin to sell more work, they begin to owe thousands of dollars, and it becomes frightenning that one day you'll find out that they went bankrupt and cannot pay. That was my fear at least.

Anyway, good luck and go to the bookstore today if you haven't already read the book.


Lastly, once you've found the right gallery for your work, then remember these words from Investment mogal Warren Buffet- Meet the people you'll be doing business with and then ask yourself these three questions: Do I like them? Do I trust them? and Do I respect them? We are investing quite a bit in a gallery once we give them our work. Make sure you say yes to all three questions before accepting them. Remember, they are also being interviewed.


Heidi Maiers 05-27-2005 07:52 PM

Great advice Marcus and Anthony,
So true that to be a successful artist, you really must know how to, not only market your work, but market yourself as well. I do like your approach Anthony (by the way, that is also my son

Linda Brandon 06-11-2005 01:15 PM

Heidi, this is an interesting thread and I wanted to offer you some more words of encouragement (though I don't know much about galleries).

I think you should think of yourself as having a national presence and get out of the whole local art mentality altogether. I encourage you to search the web for public art grants and other funding opportunities, with perhaps a goal toward making something about your art unique to you (other than your extremely good skills and intelligence).

In other words, can you make yourself, say, "fountain-specific"? I think the "person sitting on a bench" thing is taken already. :) Or, perhaps, "hanging from things by steel rods?" or "moblies" (I like those, I couldn't resist saying that. If fyou make a wind sculpture I'll buy that one for sure.)

I don't mean to sound "gimmicky" but it might help to have some kind of "hook".

Think of yourself as a huge, unstoppable, creative force rolling downhill! I don't want you to stop.

Heidi Maiers 06-11-2005 09:30 PM

Hi Linda,
Thanks for the words of encouragement. I know what you are saying about finding one

Richard Murdock 06-04-2007 09:41 AM

Hi Heidi,

I know you're work and a quite surprised at the response you've gotten. I can only imagine, as Rob said, that you had the bad luck to pick several rude galleries. I've had very good experiences with the galleries I've dealt with. I say this to encourage you to find the right dealer for your work. I know that this approach is considered hopeless, but I've had great success just sending a short email with several images attached. At the very least it helps you eliminate the rude ones pretty easily. Good luck.

Heidi Maiers 06-04-2007 07:19 PM

Hi Richard, thanks for the nice sentiments. I had forgotten about this thread written two years ago. Since then, I had given up on the idea of trying to get into a local gallery and have just been doing what I love.

Turned out to be a good thing I think since I can accept only the jobs that I want to do and not feel pressured to make a living sculpting.
As a result, I've picked up some good clients and the orders have been coming in steadily for the past two years. Now I look forward to a break when I can experiment with my own things. Currently, I'm booked through Jan 2008, so it will be a while. Some day I'll be brave enough to hang up my day job, but not today.

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