Getting Gallery Representation
I have built up a portfolio of images and I am now ready to go out there and seek representation. What advice would you give on the following:
- I have portfolios in various formats and genres, though much of my work is people/street oriented with some abstract work. What is best for a presentation...a consistent theme/project, a consistent format, or perhaps a portfolio dedicated to a particular format(s)?
- What is the best size (I will be printing FB) to print and should it be backed or prints in sleeves?
- Which size of print sells best?
- How do you approach the galleries? Arrange appointments, or cold call?
- What should I expect in terms of a deal (i.e. % commission etc)
- I assume that I would print in limited editions or is it best to print as I go and forgo editions for higher sales (I know that is the impossible question).
I have some provenance (international competitions I have one, Newspaper articles, a show in Shanghai etc)...should the work be accompanied by such a CV/bio to be shared?
I would appreciate all the advice I can get.
Thanks in advance. Kal
Never go cold. Get an appointment or they may never speak to you. Have a consistent theme, the galleries will want to have a show of the work, so the work will need to make sense together. Most places will want to see portfolio sized prints, even if the actual work to go up will be bigger. Have the images on a CD so they can see it again later. Don't expect them to make a decision while you are there. They will have their own commission rates. There is no size that sells best. People will buy what you show if they like it. Have a CV and an Artist Statement prepared. Don't take a rejection personally, they are in the business of selling. I have a documentary of Sally Mann where she is rejected from a scheduled show because they don't think it will sell. It happens. Good luck.
Some additional thoughts.
Check out galleries yourself first. Look at what they have now and decide if it fits what you are doing. If they have a lot of very high end photography, people may pass right over yours. If they don't have any photography, talk to the owner/manager and see if they want to expand into that. As Greg Davis says, make an appointment.
Expect to give the gallery 40% of the final selling price. This is pretty standard, but varies with some galleries. This means, price your photos considering that. Don't however, sell them cheaper yourself, at least not in the same area. The gallery will reject you if you are undercutting them. Don't be afraid to put a higher price on your work. It shows you value it and customers will too. If a customer sees a print for a low price they will think it isn't worth much. They go as much or more on price than on good art. You will find that many don't know what is good, so they go on price or recommendation.
I sell only finished, matted and framed prints. I'm not one to do a bunch of 8X10's, 11
x14's, 16X20's, etc. just mounted and let the customer take his choice. That's me, many do that and it works for them. I just get no enjoyment turning out prints like a machine.
Where are you hoping to exhibit Kal? Do I gather you're in Shanghai? Things vary greatly depending on the location of the gallery. What is normal in London or New York would be unusual in smaller cities.
A theme is important. Unless you have a reputation and many years of recognised works behind you and you're in the business of doing a retrospective, gallerists always want to see some theme, or a common thread, in the work you present. Select a theme carefully and make sure all the pictures relate.
I'm in Brussels, but I have a significant archive of material from China when I lived in Shanghai and made it into the national press there. Clearly a theme seems to be the theme, and I had hoped to move on from my China work and focus on Belgium more. I do have a collection of work based around the theme of "Tales Of Urban Solitude" which is significant (by that I mean in the order of 20 images), and more importantly is all Analog, something I would like to be the basis of any gallery work exhibited. I kind of want to make a break from the China images at a personal level (though given the interest culturally that may prove difficult)...thanks for the advice and happy to hear more from all comers.
So, as an intial contact, should it be by phone, or letter with some contact prints requesting an appointment?
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Phone them up, make sure you speak to the right person, make an appointment to visit with a portfolio.
do research on galleries, find one that seems to show
work of your genre.
don't drop in cold, send a card/ letter of introduction,
follow up with a phone call,
ask for an "audience" with the person who reviews portfolios.
have everything solid, same matting, same mat size.
try to have "groupings" of images that go well together.
show about 15 or 20 images, or have a portfolio/book of smaller images to review.
bring and leave behind a cd of your images.
galleries usually take about 40-60% commission.
silver magnets, trickle tanks sold
artwork often times sold for charity
PM me for details
Thanks guys. Would you say that going down the route of one film format is best, or maybe 10 images of each film format, along a certain theme? K
In my experience no one will care what film format you use, but they will be very interested in your "body of work" so keep it to themes. Very concise, judiciously edited.
Less is more. Better to give them a taste and leave them wanting than to over-saturate them. Just let them know that you are giving them a representation of your work and that you can always provide more should they request it.
Thanks Bosaiya. I had thought that a total of 20 images would be as far as I would go (also the time that will take me in the darkroom to get exhibition quality prints will be significant). I like the idea of teasers...maybe 10 of each format, based on a theme. Thanks all. K