The Artist’s Plan – How to Get a Gallery Interview

You are ready to become an art professional. You want to show your work to the world and you hope to make a living from it. Your next step is getting an interview with a gallery director. Doing your homework well ahead of time will give you an edge. It makes you look professional from…

You are ready to become an art professional. You want to show your work to the world and you hope to make a living from it. Your next step is getting an interview with a gallery director.

Doing your homework well ahead of time will give you an edge.

  • It makes you look professional from the outside.
  • Gallery staff see you are serious about your career.
  • With paperwork ready, you can take up opportunities on the spot.

1. On your computer or that of a friend, type up a Profile document with your vital details: your name, place of residence, date of birth, the medium and style you work in, and a one-sentence Mission Statement. Avoid the mistake of using Art School language, just be clear about what you do and aim to achieve.

This might be something like: 'I want to share my passion for the landscape of [insert Region] and hope to encourage responsible environmental practices.' Or it might be something like: 'Inspired by the history of [insert period or place] I aim to raise interest in and preservation of its unique features.'

TIP Do not get too fancy here. Remember the Number One Basic fact of the private gallery: it is a shop, selling art.

2. Make up a portfolio of photographs of your completed artwork. Be sure to include samples from your whole body of work to date, not just the most recent nor the pieces you consider 'the best.' Gallery staff can make shrewd judgments about such things as your direction and the subject matter you best portrait from a wide sample. Better to include too much than too little.

TIP Transparencies or 'slides' are not necessary. But if you've uploaded your photos to a flash drive, you can take that along, in your pocket, to produce if wanted at the interview.

Gallery staff are well versed in assessing an artist's abilities from even poor quality photos. They have no time to spend fiddling with light boxes or projectors, nor do they usually want to take up the company's computer time to view your samples. An album of photos, of best quality you can manage, will be more welcome in the Director's busy day.

3. Check out the galleries in your area. For each one, take note of the type of art they display. Does it include the style you are working in? Does the place look lively or deserted? If you know any fellow artists who show there, ask their opinion of the treatment they receive from staff, and if they are having satisfactory sales at that gallery. Take any complaints as a fair warning, just do not take it as 'gospel' because everyone's experience is personal.

4. When you find a gallery where you feel reasonably confident of fitting in, go home and relax, then phone and ask to speak to the Director. When the receptionist asks the nature of your business, reply that you are looking to show your work with that gallery and make a straight-forward, courteous request for an interview. Do not forget to ask for the name of the Director. It does not hurt to ask for the name of the receptionist as well. Remember to use her name when – as we hope – you arrive for your interview.

  • You may be told that a written application is required, so pull out that document you made earlier – the one with your profile and your one-sentence Mission Statement. Print it up – on one page – and include it in the envelope with your letter to the Director. On a separate page attach a 6 x 4 photo of one of your artwork with its details printed below.

TIP Photos are easily lost or mislaid in a busy office, so be sure to paste your business card – if you have one – or add a label on the back, with your name and contact numbers.

Copies of any press clippings or Web reviews you may have can also be included in the envelope, which should be a manilla A4 size so your pages lie unfolded. You really should print several copies of these documents or keep them on file on your computer.

So, what's next? I'm thinking through what impressed me as a gallery director, when new artists arrived for a first interview.