There are a myriad of opportunities for artists to show and sell their work. The main thing to keep in mind is that they rarely come and find you. An artist must be diligent and professional about finding as many ways possible to get eyes on their work, which will hopefully lead to sales!
Of course with technology today, the best way an artist can promote to an international market is with a comprehensive website and social media. This is the best way to be “found” or possibly “discovered.” Check out some of our previous artist tips about the essential materials and information to have on your website. In summary, make sure you have outstanding images of your artwork and plenty of written information about you and your work.
There are many outlets for artists to display and sell their work online, we have a list of some of the best HERE.
In today’s world, especially the art world, using social media to market yourself and your work is absolutely necessary. I recommend all artists take an active role in networking and posting often about their work. At least, artists should be active on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Now, definitely don’t over do it, but research shows each of these platforms are good for up to 6 posts per day before the audience starts to ignore them. A key point is to continue to grow your network by engaging with other artists and people who show interest in what you do. Word of mouth goes a long way in the art industry.
For early career artists, especially those just getting started, it is important to look into alternative venues other than art galleries to show your work. Search your vicinity for restaurants, coffee shops, salons, libraries, any business that might be a good opportunity for you to hang your work and where people will see it. Another great idea I have seen catch on lately is for groups of young artists to join together and find exhibition spaces to show all of their work. There are many artist run organizations that you can join to get in on potential exhibition opportunities that they set up for the group as well, so it’s a good idea to search those out.
Often I see artists focusing way too much on just their local area. A great way to get more views on your work and build your resume is to submit to national and online calls for exhibitions and competitions. I offer a curated list of open calls HERE but a simple google search for “calls for art” or “call to artists” could yield some great opportunities. Remember to always follow the submission guidelines, an easy way to not get selected is send the wrong materials. If you need help with writing, editing, or creating a portfolio or application, definitely give me a call.
If an artist is ready to plunge into the gallery world, then there is one piece of advice I hope you pay attention to: DO YOUR RESEARCH! First, look for group shows you can submit to. The best way to find them is to get to join the gallery mailing list and join local artist groups in social media like Facebook. There are so many types and specializations in the local gallery scene so here are some steps to find the best fit:
- Get to know which galleries would most likely be interested in your work
- Do they show early-career, mid-career, or established artists?
- Find out what style of work they usually show—what is their brand?
- Learn about the price range they show and sell—do you have work that fits their sales model?
- Find out how they prefer to receive submissions and what materials they require—hopefully they have this information on their website, if not make a phone call to inquire.
- If you apply and are not selected, continue to visit the galleries you are interested in. Introduce yourself to the curators and other artists they show. After a while, name recognition could go a long way.
These pointers could get your work noticed by galleries and maybe even represented. But, remember to really focus on the gallery requests. Here is an inside tip from a former gallerist, we only really review and keep the submissions that have everything we request, and whose work fits our aesthetic. If an artist ever just sent an email with a website link, I rarely even looked at the website, the email went right to the trash box.
Lastly, I want to touch on the idea of doing things for people, groups, organizations, etc for “exposure.” For example many nonprofits ask artists to donate their work for events, auctions, and such with the claim that they will get a lot of “exposure” and many people with money will see it. Be very skeptical, do research on the organization and their donors and see if it is beneficial. Do they actually have any real interest in art? What do the proceeds go towards? Do they give the artist any part of the money raised by their work? Donating artwork and the tax implications are tricky, they are changing for the better too, but I cannot stand when artists who are well known enough are doing things for “exposure.” In any business there are internships for those needing to learn and get some experience. Is this you? If so it could be beneficial as a resume builder. But, for professional artists, I promote not doing anything for free, your work is your livelihood. Give if you feel there is a cause you want to support but never let the promise of “exposure” dictate your involvement.
- Justin Germain