How to Get Art Into a Gallery for Complete Beginners

how to get art into a gallery

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Learning how to get art into a gallery can seem like an impossible task. How do you get your work featured alongside some of the most skilled artists in the art world?

You’ll be glad to know that getting your work into art galleries isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds. Just like any other business goal, you need a mixture of perseverance, research, and confidence.

Below I’ll look into how other artists get featured in art galleries and what you should try when putting yourself out there. I’ll also share some lesser-known avenues you can try!

The Art Element of Getting Into an Art Gallery

Getting your work featured in an art gallery involves, well…a strong portfolio of art! Let’s take a look at what this aspect entails so you’re not accidentally submitting the wrong work.

1. Make Sure You Have a Portfolio of Your Best Work

Your first order of business is to snip out some work. While I totally understand what it’s like to get attached to certain pieces, you need a lean-and-mean approach when submitting to art galleries.

Portfolio of Your Best Work

A few tips on trimming the fat from your portfolio are:

  • Pieces that are several years old – work from the past few years better represent your growth than a piece from fifteen years ago.
  • Any work that doesn’t fit the gallery’s theme – for example, submitting human portraits to a gallery focused on natural environments and animals
  • Any work you’ve already submitted to other galleries – while some galleries may be fine with this, most galleries prefer exclusive work. Always double-check their submission guidelines for this part.

There’s a lot of competition, so you don’t want to give art gallery owners any reason to turn you down. While I know it can seem finicky, an inappropriate piece or slightly outdated work could be enough for them to pass you over.

If you don’t have any recent work or aren’t sure how to organize your portfolio yet, there’s no harm in waiting. A recent study found roughly five million artists compete to be seen in seventy-thousand galleries around the world.

While I know that sounds like a lot of competition, there’s a silver lining – look at how many galleries there are! The sheer law of average means there will always be more opportunities to feature your work, so sometimes waiting and refining your craft is a better option for now.

2.Narrow Down Where You Want to Display Your Work

Display Your Work

Since applying to art galleries is an intensive process, you don’t want to burn out applying willy-nilly. Save yourself – and the gallery owners – some time by narrowing down your options.

For starters, some galleries are strictly local. They’ll only display work from their state, city, or even their neighborhood. As such, you’d look pretty silly trying to approach art galleries from another state or country.

Other galleries prefer to feature new artists with little to no gallery experience under their belt. These locations are great for newcomers to get their foot in the door, so keep a close eye out for these establishments.

Yet more galleries have strict themes for their artists to follow. They might focus on a certain medium, like oil paints, or revolve around a specific style, like surrealism or abstract art.

You don’t want your art in a gallery that doesn’t resonate with you personally. Take some time to research a few galleries and group them together by their themes, approach, or style. This habit will not only increase your chances of being accepted, but you’ll be prouder to display your work somewhere that aligns with your vision.

3.Practice Curating Your Work Independently

Curating artwork is more than just picking a few similar pieces and setting them up side-by-side. Curation involves crafting a unique experience that each piece contributes to, not unlike the notes in a song or the ingredients in a recipe.

You can practice curating your own work and showcasing it to get comfortable with gallery representation. In fact, you might already be doing this and not even know it! If you’ve ever put together an aesthetic mood board to share on social media, you’ve already got a taste of art curation.

To get more practice in, review your online portfolio and think of ways you can present your work more cohesively. You can group your work by theme, color, location, style, subject, you name it. You can also curate your work on social media with specific posts designed like mini-galleries, such as an Instagram slide post.

4.Consider Co-Op Galleries as Your Starting Point

You don’t have to wait until you get into the most prestigious gallery openings to feature your work. Co-op galleries are often easier for new artists since they require less prestige to get in.

Co-op galleries feature several artists in one place, allowing everyone to have time to shine. Not only are these fun events for visitors who want to enjoy lots of different art, you’ll have less pressure on your own shoulders. Solo exhibitions are fancy, yes, but they can be a little intimidating for your first time – not to mention they’re usually reserved for well-known artists.

co-op galleries
(Image Source)

Another interesting aspect of co-op is that the artists are in charge. The artist collective will share the decision-making process, so everyone can chip in with ideas and personal experience.

Many artists had their art exhibited at a co-op with some classmates or a few friends. This gave them the experience they needed to eventually feature their own art in solo exhibitions and sell art at commercial galleries.

5.You Can Also Consider Other Ways of Featuring Your Work

A traditional institution isn’t the only way to get art in a gallery. There are quite a few businesses out there that would love to help you with selling art and getting your name out there.

Featuring Your Work

What’s it in for them? For starters, several businesses enjoy dipping into the art world to bring attention to their brand. Just think about how many brick-and-mortar businesses with gorgeous paintings hanging on the wall or custom A-signs outside their front door. Having some original art is a great way to get people snapping photos and sharing the business on their social media.

  • Coffee shops
  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Restaurants and bars
  • Libraries
  • Conventions

You can also rent a space and simply feature your own work. Many new artists will apply other skills – such as sales or interior design – to take matters into their own hands. If you already know a few people in your local art community, you can ask for their help. Just make sure to compensate them for their time!

This last element leads me to a huge aspect of spreading the word in the art world…

The Marketing Aspect of Getting Your Work Into an Art Gallery

The most moving artist statement or loveliest ceramic art won’t mean much if people don’t know about you. Targeted and consistent marketing is the backbone of a successful art career, so let’s look at some easy ways to get started.

1. Spend Time on Your Online Presence to Generate Demand

A solid online presence will do wonders to generate interest in your future art show. In fact, it can also be a tool to convince gallery directors you’re worth adding to their next exhibition.

Generate Demand

People can’t love what they don’t know about, so consider beefing up your social media presence. This can look like uploading art more frequently or using hashtags, such as contests or art events. Becoming better known online is a good sign that a gallery may get more visitors (or at least more word-of-mouth on their own social media).

You likely already know that Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms for artists, but it bears repeating. Many art directors, buyers, and gallery owners enjoy browsing the platform for their next feature or referral.

Pinterest and Facebook are also quite popular due to being friendly for large images and casual browsing.

2.Go to Social Events Online or In Person to Spread the Word

Ah, networking…the bane of artists both introverted and extroverted. While many artists would rather be working on their next piece, socializing is still key to getting featured in a gallery space.

Spread the Word

However, networking doesn’t have to be difficult or tedious. All you have to do is match it to your personality and schedule. If you’re like me and prefer to be alone most of the time, you can network through an online art event instead of in person. There are many fun seminars and presentations you can sign up for with chat boards or live Q&A sessions.

You can also take online classes and get to know other artists there. People love to swap portfolios, and contact information, and share opportunities.

If you prefer in-person, there are a slew of art galleries, bookstore events, and conventions you can visit. These locations are brimming with opportunities to chat with artists at their booths or meet people who work in the industry.

3.Get Creative With Showcasing Your Work

showcasing your work

If you always wait for permission, you’ll be waiting a long time – perhaps even forever. Getting creative and assertive with showcasing your work may just be how you get your foot in the door.

Do you have teaching experience or want to learn? Consider teaching online art courses to get your art noticed. Even better, you’ll teach others valuable skills they’ll be all too happy to share with their family and friends. Word of mouth is all about paying it forward, after all!

You can also volunteer at a local art non-profit. These organizations do all sorts of events to raise awareness or contribute to underserved communities, so you can have a win-win here. Not only will you gain some valuable skills, but you can also promote your work and network with like-minded people.

4.Use Local Resources to Your Advantage

You don’t have to target galleries or apply to group exhibitions all on your own. Local resources are often eager to help you out or even give you a boost if you put in the effort.

Use Local Resources

Art grants are one of the best ways to get your work out there and have a little money to show for it. Check with your state or district’s local resources – for example, Virginia’s grants section – and look in their art section. You’ll often find a regularly updated roster filled with grants offering different amounts for certain features like age, media, or theme.

You can also check out sites that offer gradually updating rosters of scholarships.

You will get rejected more than you get accepted. Let me tell you, right now, not to give up. Part of being a commercial artist is becoming comfortable with the fact you’ll get a hundred no’s for every one or two yes’s. However, just one or two yes’s is all you need.

The Professional Aspect of Getting Your Work Into an Art Gallery

The smaller, professional details go a long way in making you look professional, approachable, and trustworthy to galleries. If you fly by the seat of your pants and don’t take into account the power of a first impression, you can kiss opportunities goodbye.

1. Read Submission Guidelines Thoroughly (and Ask Questions!)

I can’t stress the need to read artist submissions requirements enough. If you can’t even follow basic instructions, a gallery director won’t be interested in working with you.

Read the submission guidelines front to back, all the way up to the fine print. Some of the most common details you’ll need to pay attention to in artist submissions are:

  1. Submission date (don’t forget to check the time zone)
  2. Submission length, file type, and amount of art submitted
  3. If there’s something you’re not sure about or could be missing, don’t be afraid to reach out to an art director or coordinator with questions

2. Be Friendly and Formal When Talking to Professionals

You don’t have to be a social butterfly to get art in a gallery. As long as you’re friendly and approachable, you’ll put people at ease and increase your chances of them bringing you on.

According to a recent study, you have roughly twenty-seven seconds to make a first impression. That can mean the difference between a gallery director saving your contact information or moving on to the next artist.

Below are a few tips you can try next time you need to meet with someone concerning a studio visit or gallery show:

  • A little smile goes a long way – you don’t have to go overboard, but it makes you look a little friendlier and helps put people at ease
  • Stretch your chatting muscles beforehand – for example, talk to a friend or even say hello to the cashier when buying food before going to an event. You can even rehearse your pitch to reduce fumbling your words, which can look amateurish.
  • Ask them targeted questions and make it clear you’re interested – talking about yourself too much can make you look self-centered

If you have a little experience under your belt, consider putting together an artist CV. This tool is incredibly helpful for building a gallery relationship and making it clear you’re taking professionalism seriously.

3. Get to Know the Gallery Better

Speaking of getting to know certain galleries, building a relationship with the gallery you’re interested in is another key promotional tactic. Taking the time to build relationships and learn about the people behind the gallery goes a long way in helping them remember you.

Know the Gallery

What are some easy ways you can become familiar with a gallery without being pushy or sales-y?

  • Subscribe to the art gallery’s newsletter – most have free email newsletters that update you with events, discounts, and interviews
  • Attend the gallery’s shows – take some photos (with permission) and chat with visitors or workers. You might just meet a new business acquaintance.
  • Follow their social media account – leave comments, share their posts, and participate in any online events they do.

Why Do You Want to Feature Your Work?

Before you set up a studio visit or go back to art school, you need to hone in on the ‘why’ part of featuring your work in galleries. What part of the art gallery experience is essential to your vision?

If you need a place to start, I’ll talk about my own experience. I enjoy featuring my work to create a dedicated space to celebrate, analyze, and share my art. I love hearing people’s perspectives on my craft and viewing my work in a new light. Some of the most fascinating feedback I’ve ever gotten was in showcases, sometimes changing how I looked at art entirely.

why do you want to feature your work?

On a similar note, I enjoy visiting art galleries because I love stepping into the world of other artists. I’m hypnotized by all the unique ways we can take the world around us and remix it into something entirely one-of-a-kind.

This powerful ‘why’ will keep you grounded and focused when you get rejected from galleries. It’ll make sure your gallery showing will always be true to who you are, even when some people try to mold you into someone else entirely.

3 Important Myths You Need to Know

If you want to get your art into a gallery, you also need to know what to avoid. Below are a few myths that could waste your time or even lead you into a scam.


Art Galleries Require Artists to Pay Them a Fee

This myth is one of the biggest – any gallery worth its salt will not require a fee to show your work. Application fees are also suspect, even if they try to frame them as ‘covering costs’ or ‘supporting their workers’.

Galleries make their money through ticket sales and taking a small cut of any pieces you sell.

Nobody Wants to Hear the Artist Talk About Themselves

This myth can be easy to believe if you’re worried about your lack of experience. While some galleries may have requirements for volume level, most will be eager to hear you speak.

Remember: many people visit galleries because they want to meet the artist and learn from them. Depending on the gallery’s event list, you may even be invited to speak on panels, do a Q&A session, or do an interview.

artist talk

You’re Too Old or Too Young to Be Featured

There is no ‘perfect age’ to be featured in an art gallery. In fact, some galleries will actively prioritize different age groups depending on the theme or perspective they’re hoping to showcase.

For example, some galleries are very interested in artists in their 50’s and 60’s. Others may seek artists freshly graduated from high school.

If you’re eager to start searching, check out some art gallery guides and databases here.

4 Extra Tips to Increase Your Chances of Success

Last, but not least, I have a few extra tips that’ll significantly boost your chances of being accepted. Every little detail counts, after all!

Increase Your Chances

Use Rejections to Your Advantage in Your Artist CV

Have you already applied to a few galleries and been rejected? You can use these rejections as a sign of your ambition and determination, two qualities that look wonderful to art directors.

Keep records of your applications, such as filled-out application forms and email confirmations. Dedicate a section in your CV for places you’ve applied to with details such as:

  • The name of the gallery
  • The date you applied
  • The pieces you submitted
  • The date you were rejected

Take Professional Photos of Your Artwork

Unless you’re comfortable with a camera, consider hiring a professional photographer to put together your portfolio. Low contrast, bad lighting, and distracting backgrounds will make your work look amateurish.

take professional photos of your artwork

If you don’t have the time or money to hire a professional, consider investing in a higher-quality camera and some photography space. You can rent studio space that comes equipped with bright lighting, smooth walls, and props like chairs and tables.

Don’t be too wrapped up in complex compositions or fancy backgrounds. The focus of your photography should be showing off your work in its truest state – sharp details, accurate colors, and no distractions.

Put Together a Price Sheet to Save Art Directors Some Work

When art directors choose artists to feature, they have to go through a lengthy process to determine how to price and sell work. Saving them time with a price sheet not only looks professional, it’s wonderfully convenient.

Price Sheet

Your price sheet should include important factors such as:

  • Thumbnails of your proposed pieces with their physical size
  • The media type, including the surface (such as canvas or wood)
  • The creation date
  • Expected prices, including the gallery’s commission rate (you can find this on their website or ask them directly over email)

Make sure to double-check your price sheet for any typos, grammatical errors, or contradictory information. For example, you don’t want to state an illustration is one price, then have a different number on another page. The only thing worse than an amateurish first impression is a confusing one.

Consider Putting Together a Press Packet for Extra Clout

One time I stumbled upon a podcast that featured my work alongside a few other fantasy artists. That helped me realize there are many ways to give your portfolio a little extra clout.

Putting together a press packet is as simple as leaning back and thinking about all the times your work has been featured, mentioned, or discussed. Just a few examples you can try are:

  • Your work being featured in a blog, podcast, or publication
  • Your work being featured or mentioned in a press release
  • Your work being featured on a well-known social media account in your industry
  • Any grants you’ve won or artistic crowdfunding efforts you’ve successfully pulled off

Getting Into an Art Gallery Isn’t a Pipe Dream, But a Possibility

Whether you reach out to your municipal arts council or decide to attend more art fairs, you have options. Getting into an art gallery is far from a pipe dream with today’s resources.

You don’t have to wait until you’re an online art star before you can get featured in art shows. A dedicated online social presence and commitment to outreach will open countless doors for you.

If you’re curious to learn more about creative entrepreneurship, check out our piece breaking down lucrative career fields for creatives.

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