All the talk about how to prepare for an exhibition with set dates made me realize that I don’t want to neglect anyone who is currently working on a body of work suitable for a gallery setting.
By now you may have gathered that I am not one to approach a gallery without a concrete idea and several art pieces on hand forming a new body of work. In the past I have found that gallery owners and operators are more interested in a proposal if the artist has images of recent work available.
When contacting a gallery I submit a professional proposal which is comprised of:
A cover letter with a brief outline of what the exhibition entails; I do not exceed one page.
My CV (curriculum vitae) with education, exhibition experiences (solo and group), awards and grants, publications I have contributed to, and a list of art organizations I support through my membership and/or board appointments.This information should be brief – no more than two pages long. If your CV is longer focus on the high profile exhibitions, including solo and juried shows.
A separate sheet of paper showcases my biography which is no more than one page long.
Another sheet of letterhead provides an artist statement pertaining to the proposed exhibition. Again, I stay within a three paragraph rule and I don’t exceed one page.
In addition I burn a CD with up to 20 professional images, each image is labeled with a sequential number, and the title of the work.
The CD is supported by a detailed list outlining (and corresponding with the CD) title of the work, medium, measurements and year completed.
Each individual component of the proposal is printed on letterhead providing my name, full mailing address, website URL, as well as phone number and email address. The CD has a label with my name, address and the title of the proposed exhibition. I also include a self-addressed and stamped envelope so the gallery can return my portfolio if they are not interested in my work.
All documents mentioned above are carefully placed into a presentation folder. I purchase these at the stationary store, and often affix a postcard of my work to the front to make it stand out from other proposals. Keep in mind, galleries are inundated with these proposals and the majority don’t make it past the intake person. If your proposal is more eye catching to begin with, chances are that it will garner a second look!
Before submitting a proposal I investigate several galleries. Identify the focus of each gallery and find out when they accept proposals. Most galleries have set times each year that they review portfolios. If you submit your proposal outside of these times it may be overlooked when the selection review committee meets.
Once you have mailed the proposal allow a couple of weeks for the gallery to receive it. Follow up with either a phone call or an email to ascertain that the proposal has arrived. Don’t expect at that time to get information about whether the curator has made a decision, practice patience! It is not unreasonable to call the gallery again after two months to find out if a decision has been reached. In the case of a rejection politely inquire why the exhibition was not accepted at this time. This will help you with future submissions.
In closing I want to remind you of some advice I received so many years ago: Sending out proposals for exhibitions is like applying for a job. We submit many applications before we even get an interview, and often several interviews finally land us a job. If a proposal is rejected, open the envelope, check over the content of the folder, update and augment where necessary and send it out to another gallery on your list immediately. Wallowing in self-pity over one rejection will not land us a position in a gallery that values our work.
And one last thought: Sometimes our work does not suit the theme the gallery has set for the year, but also keep in mind that most galleries and museums book at least two full years ahead. Keep your eyes open to calls for submissions – sometimes a part of our work will fit into a specific group exhibition. Plug into your art community and engage in various events. Name recognition is often what brings our work to the attention of a curator. Opportunities are all around!
Did I forget anything important? Let me know by leaving a comment below. I will answer questions as I am able to and I promise to research and respond to those questions I have no immediate response for.
Anna thanks so much for this series of posts. I am leading a discussion about exhibitions with a group of Calgary artists in March and will be using your posts as the basis for our discussion.
You are welcome, Diane! I am glad these posts were helpful in your research. It’s all about sharing! Hello to Calgary – I bet I know a few of the artists you will be sharing this with.
Great information Anna – thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I may never attempt an exhibit but I really like the idea of deciding on a theme and making several pieces around that theme – plan to start on notes, sketches and ideas right now! PS – after the workshop with you in September I started a journal and even bought a new digital camera that is small enough it fits in my purse and goes everywhere with me.
Bev – thanks so much for commenting. It is wonderful to hear that you have embraced some of my habits and suggestions. I just know that the camera will become your best companion for gathering ideas. Can’t wait to see what you will come up with in the future!
Thank you so much for this information. It is by far the clearest, most informative discussion of the subject I have seen.
Glad to have summarized my history. There are so many aspects to exhibiting and everyone has additional personal experiences. As well, every gallery handles artists’ submissions differently and flexibility is key!
People do not realize how much work it is to get an exhibit and put on a show. thanks for sharing with us and showing how to approach an exhibit it has been very helpful. I truly admire your work and stanima to do amazing art.
Cathy, thanks for taking the time to weigh in!
How is life? Are you still in Vienna?
Thanks so much for sharing these informative posts, Anna–i had not thought of it as job hunting, but essentially that is what it is, and time for me to approach it that way!
Good to hear this was helpful!