There’s rejection, and there’s just plain rudeness. Recognize the difference.
Today I read an article about an artist who approached an art gallery while they were on vacation in another state. It was quickly apparent they were not interested in the work itself. Only the artist’s credentials–other gallery respresentation, shows they’d been in, etc. Because the artist is just starting this process, they were deemed ‘not good enough’. OUCH.
I’m a huge fan of growing through rejection. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from the process.
Art galleries have as many ways of working as there are….well, art galleries. And the people who own/manage them are, as a fellow artist said years ago, just “customers with stores.” He meant that we often ascribe great powers to the institution. In reality, they are regular people, with all the attendant idiosyncrasies, attributes, and flaws. With a gallery behind them.
Some are only interested in ‘the sure thing‘–an established artist with a loyal audience, who will bring them business. Apparently, that’s the kind this artist ran into. Er, walked into.
Others are constantly looking for the ‘the next big thing.’ If our work knocks them out of the park, we are professional in your outlook, and we’ve done our homework and paid our dues, they might take us on.
Others are always looking for ‘the next cool thing‘. They want a fresh face with a distinctive style, a unique body of work, that they believe will appeal to their audience. If they can afford it, they will invest in your professional growth and development.
Others may love, love, love your work, but ‘it’s not their thing’. It simply doesn’t fit with the audience they’ve developed over the years. They want to say yes, but they can’t. In fact, when I worked with galleries I met at wholesale fine craft shows, this happened a lot. They couldn’t help but carry my work. But it simply didn’t work out for either of us. (And I’m eternally grateful they tried.)
I wrote an article about this for a magazine years ago, and got to talk to a few prestigious gallery owners. One said you could even have awful photos, but if they could tell the work as astonishing, they’d still take you up.
So today’s tip for getting gallery representation: Galleries that host juried exhibitions and encourage people to apply might just be looking for those fresh faces. Apply to the ones you think might be a good fit for you.
In fact, you should/could follow up with them after the show, EVEN IF YOU WERE NOT ACCEPTED into the exhibition. Why? Because when putting together a cohesive show, some amazing artists might be excluded (ruefully), because their work doesn’t ‘go with’ the rest of the work in the show. Your work might be greatly admired, but simply not ‘fit in’ with that particular batch of artists.
Remember–a gallery that treats an artist badly at the get-go….is that a gallery you’d like to work with? Yes, galleries always say you should make an appointment, contact them before visiting, etc. But in reality, as long as you chose a time when they weren’t busy, and you weren’t pushy or demanding, a good gallery will ALWAYS take a few minutes to take a look. And even if it’s not a good fit, they will often recommend another gallery that might suit.
There are other strategies to building a ‘resume’ of shows and honors, but the short story is, what you learned is, this was not a gallery you’d want to work with anyway.
. A gallery only interested in your resume? A gallery treating an artist rudely? Condescending, snide? Remember, it’s just as easy to be kind and respectful as it is to be arrogant and condescending. If they chose the latter, walk away.
Your work is awesome! And there’s a place for it in the world.
Count your blessings, dig in, and keep going. Find the best home in the world for your anamzing work.