The last article’s reconnaissance mission concluded with your revealing yourself to the gallery director as an artist seeking representation. I’d like to continue this mission with the interview phase, which is your opportunity to gather as much information about this gallery as possible. Remember, you are an employer searching for someone to represent you and your work.
Always be Prepared
Have along with you at least 6 of your best pieces, a few of which should be professionally framed. Also, bring your updated biography, resume, and a good quality reproduction of your work. Now, leave these items in the car. Never assume that the director will have time this day to view your work. The gallery business can be a hectic one and you don’t want to interfere with sales or the process of cultivating them. Suggest showing your work now but be prepared to schedule an appointment in the future for reviewing work. After scheduling, offer your reproduction as an opportunity for the director to make an initial decision about whether they feel your work is appropriate for the gallery.
Interview/ Part One
Getting the Big Picture
Asking the director some very basic questions will help avoid wasting time reviewing your work with a gallery that isn’t a good fit or doesn’t live up to your business priorities.
Is the gallery currently looking for artists? Obviously, the answer to this question will tell you whether this is a receptive new partner. Be prepared that they may wish to represent only the current handful of artists or they may have so many artists already on exhibit that there’s little chance for wall space for your work. If this is the case, be gracious and offer to leave behind your information. Keep the director abreast of your exhibition schedule with subsequent mailings. They may hope to add you to their roster in the future. If, however, they are looking for new artists, continue with the next question.
How would the director describe the theme or mission statement for this gallery? The answer you receive should reinforce your initial instincts about the gallery and reveal something of its director. For example, their answer might be, “ We specialize in promoting local and regional artists,” or, “Our focus is providing high-end contemporary artwork to our clients.” These responses show some clarity in the mind of the director as to the goals of the gallery. If, however, the answer you receive is somewhat scattered, you may be dealing with an inexperienced or unmotivated director. Make a mental note of this and move on to the next question.
What is the best-selling subject matter or genre for this gallery? Related to the previous question, the answer reveals whether the gallery’s goals are reinforced by its sales. If the walls are filled with landscapes but the director mentions still life as the best-selling genre, clearly something is askew. If your work fits the best-selling genre mentioned, clearly it would be a marketable addition to the current collection. However, if your art is out of that realm but you are still partial to this gallery, don’t be afraid to ask if the director would consider trying something new and fresh.
What is the most common price range for sales in this gallery? Ideally, the bulk of your prices should fall somewhere within the range mentioned or no more than 30% above or below. Allowances might be made for work that is higher priced than average but which obviously shows high standards of craftsmanship and presentation. If your work is currently inexpensive and/or isn’t measuring up to this gallery’s standards, consider improving on these levels of craftsmanship, presentation, and ultimately pricing.
How have sales been lately? Hopefully the director will be forthcoming with this information. Even if sales have been slow lately, a positive response to current market conditions is a good thing. Your future employee needs to match their good attitude with yours. Steer clear of gloom and doom directors. Their demeanors never seem to get any better.