How to approach art galleries

 8 March 2012

Approaching galleries takes time and research. Different types of spaces require slightly different approaches.

Identify the types of galleries you want to approach and why you are approaching them.
Identify the types of galleries you want to approach and why you are approaching them.

Research potential galleries

You are aiming to build relationships with individuals and galleries who have an affinity with your work and aims.

High quality images are very important in what is a competitive field.

Decide what you want from that realtionship. Are you primarily looking to sell work or raise your profile?

When you know this, you will need to identify the galleries to approach:

  • Familiarise yourself with exhibition programmes through mailing lists, reviews and exhibitions.
  • Speak to artists who have exhibited in these spaces.
  • Visit art fairs, so you can see many galleries at the same time. For example: the Affordable Art Fair, London Art Fair and Frieze Art Fair.

Find out what information the curator would require for an approach. This could be via their website or by contacting the galleries directly.

Most galleries today would expect good quality digital images, but it's advisable to check the acceptable format for submitting work with each gallery approached. High quality images are very important in what is a competitive field.

Additional information such as an artist’s statement, up-to-date CV or recent reviews may be requested too.

6 tips for approaching galleries

The following tips are particularly relevant for approaching smaller commercial galleries:

  1. Maintain and revisit existing contacts and relationships with galleries.
  2. Select new galleries that appear to have an affinity with your type of work.
  3. Visit the space to get a clearer idea of the gallery's price range and how they display work.
  4. Identify the points of interest and relevance in your work or artistic practice that are in accord with the gallery you are approaching.
  5. Find out if the gallery provides a letter of agreement or contract with artists setting out the terms for exhibition and sale.
  6. Depending on your desired audience, you might want to check if the galleries you are approaching have the Own Art scheme.
    This offers interest-free credit for people to buy contemporary art and craft and is often seen as a way of making art affordable for a wider demographic market.

Useful questions to ask galleries

Select galleries that have an affinity with your type of work.

Questions about costing and payment would essentially be broached only when the gallery has shown an interest in your work.

You may want to ask:

  • If the gallery takes work on a sale or return basis or buys outright.
  • If they work on a sale or return basis, what is the level of commission the gallery charges?
  • Are you liable to pay the VAT on their commission?
  • Is this added to the price you quote to them or subtracted from your price?
  • How will you be notified of sales and what are the payment terms?


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