Galleries and marketing gurus will tell you that you can't just walk into a gallery unannounced with your paintings tucked under your arm. But that's exactly what I did. Well, almost.
I live in a casual coastal environment where big city rules of engagement often don't apply. There's a slower pace of life here, an unrushed gentility, and business is often still conducted with a handshake.
|©Theresa Grillo Laird -Dunes and Fences -oil on canvas-30x40"|
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When I started looking for gallery representation, I chose a city about an hour and a half away that had a reputation for being art friendly. I spent the day walking around visiting galleries to get a feel for each one. I wanted to see what kind of art they carried, how it was displayed and how the staff approached me, a potential art buying customer. I also wanted a gallery that didn't depend on a side aspect, like framing, to carry the gallery.
The first gallery I walked into almost looked like a garage sale. The paintings hung on dividers scattered about in a haphazard maze, and were so closely spaced that it made me dizzy to look from one to the next. The next gallery had beautiful art nicely displayed, but the staff, framing works behind a counter, didn't even look up to acknowledge my presence. The gallery I chose looked like a gallery. It had enough space to walk around and to step back to view the fine art . The art was hung in a way that had a kind of flow to it. Nothing was jarring or haphazard looking.Within a minute of walking in, the owner walked up to me, smiled and introduced himself. I knew I'd found the place I wanted to represent me.
When he learned the reason for my visit, I asked if I could show him a couple of pieces I'd left in my car. He agreed and accepted the pieces for the gallery. I wish I could say that this wonderful start to our relationship which resulted in sales to good collections, is carrying on to this day. But over time the owners started spending less and less time in the gallery leaving me in the embarrassing position of sending clients there just to have them come back and tell me the gallery was closed. I eventually pulled my art out. I guess that's the downside to casual environment galleries.
I've had my work in several galleries that I approached in a similar manner. For some, I followed the route for submission that they requested on their website. Others I just walked into. Of course I know better than to stroll into a big city glitzy gallery and expect the same thing to work.
The point is that there's no one way to achieve an objective whether it's finding your artistic voice, carving out a living in art or gaining gallery representation. Everyone's art journey, like their spiritual journey is unique and deeply personal. It's useful and interesting to see how others have done it, but ultimately you're on a solo path. And to me, not knowing what vistas will open up around the bend is what makes this fascinating journey so exciting!