Getting In With Galleries & Interior Designers

This is something I hear a lot, a question that peppers my dms and email. Here’s a sample message I get a lot from aspiring artists: “Hi Christine, I love your work! I’m a fellow artist and I was hoping to pick your brain. I’m wondering how to get into galleries and work with interior designers! Thanks a bunch! <3”

I cannot tell you how many times I have received a message like this. I wish there was one answer I could give to all the artists who have asked me this. Everyone’s path is different, but to those who ask, I can only explain my path.

I posted on Instagram story about this a few weeks ago but I just want to reiterate these ideas on the blog so that you have a place to refer back to. There is no secret sauce, I’m not magically blessed with more talent or more opportunity than you, I’ve dug deep and figured out who I want to be, what kind of artist I want to be, and am strategically perusing opportunities to that end. Before you click off this blog post ask yourself these questions:

    1. Why do I want to be in a gallery?
      What is the reason? Is it money, representation, to add a line on your CV? Galleries are a partnership. You need to think of yourself and your work in the terms of, “what value can I add here.” Or “In what ways do I align with their vision that helps both of us?” A gallery will probably not sell out all of your work, they might not even sell a single piece. Never go into a gallery relationship for anything except the opportunity to offer them value, and the hope that you can have a new relationship in the art community. Expecting more is setting yourself up for disappointment
    2. Why do I want to work with interior designers?
      Do you assume there is a lot of money there? There isn’t always, usually designers are on a tight budget from their clients. Are you assuming they will move your pieces? It could take months or years before a designer you’ve been talking to moves one of your pieces. I would ask you the same questions here as I did above. How are you adding value to the lives and work of interior designers and their clients? What makes you a better partner than someone else?
    3. Why are you making the art you make?
      Pretty isn’t good enough. Do your pieces have meaning? They cannot just be beautiful, they must come from somewhere, they have to tell a story. Who and what inspires your work? Why do they inspire it? Infuse meaning into your works, choose themes, elements, and design that will further the message and story you want to put into the world. Getting your messaging clear will attract your tribe.

You know the answers to these questions? Good. You still want to “get into galleries.”  Here’s how I’ve done it in the past.

  1. Start with research
    Are you applying to galleries willy nilly? Stop. Research galleries that have shown artists similar to you. When I mean similar to you I mean, have they shown artists in your phase of career, with your education background, with work that is like yours, in your price point. If you are an abstract artist who has been painting for 1 year, no art education, and no artistic resume to speak of, you’re not going to get into a gallery that only shows artists with BFAs who have been painting fine portraits for the last 25 years. Not every gallery relationship is right for you, or for your art. Research to find the ones that align with your art, your mission and your ability level.
  2. How to “get in”
    You’ve found a handful of galleries that you think you’d be a good fit for and can add value to, wonderful! Research if they have any open calls right now. If they do, then apply! If they don’t, subscribe to their newsletter or reach out to the staff at the gallery to see if/when they have open calls.
  3. Be willing to take rejection
    Maybe you did the research, went through the application, and they still rejected you. Bummer. Ask them why and see if they respond. They are under no obligation to respond to you though. If they tell you a reason, take it with a grain of salt, try and improve your portfolio, artist statement and cv, and move on to the next gallery.
  4. Getting into one doesn’t mean you’ll get into the next
    Just because you got into one gallery, doesn’t mean you’ll get into the next. Every gallery is looking for something different. Don’t take it personally, find the ones you can work with. Build the relationships that you can from each encounter. Try and leave the interaction better than when you found it.

I would argue this same line with interior designers, only with slight modifications.

  1. Start with research
    If you’re interested in working with interior designers, make sure you’re familiar with their work. Have you seen work like yours in their portfolios or design projects? If not, then they might not be interested in your work.
  2. How to “get in”
    Follow them on social media and engage with their content. Send them an email introducing yourself and sending over your portfolio.
  3. Be willing to take rejection
    They might never respond to you or simply say, “Thanks for reaching out we will keep you in mind for future projects!” And that’s all you can do while continuing to engage with them.

Perhaps I’m assuming incorrectly, but whenever I get the message, “how do you get into galleries and work with interior designers?” I hear an underlying assumption that there is some secret club of artists, galleries and designers and once you get in you don’t have to worry about work opportunities, they will just come your way. This club does not exist, if it does, I’m certainly not a part of it. Getting one opportunity does not mean you will get another. How do you get in? By doing the work. Understanding your true value in the market and finding the people who can value it.

And for those of you who have asked me this question. There is no shame in asking, I’m honored that you consider me someone who can answer this question. I’m merely trying to say that there is not one answer and I’m encouraging you to find your own path.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed it, share with your friends. Follow me on Instagram @christineolmstead Pinterest @christineolmstead Facebook @ceolmstead

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