The Sixth Commandment - Do Thy Research

This is a crucial step in finding the right gallery for your work and will save you a lot of time, rejection and (in the case of those of you actually printing out and mailing promo kits ) expense..

In this digitally connected world we live in, all art galleries are literally just a finger click away, so when searching for the right gallery to show (and sell) your work in , don’t just start randomly clicking on ones in the area you are targeting and then start sending them copied and pasted emails. .

Stop. Study their websites. Take a look at the artists they represent. Look at the past shows they have had and see if they ever have group shows or open calls. And most importantly, look at their submission policies for new artists .
Honestly ask yourself “Would my work even fit in here? “

If the gallery is predominately representing painters and you are a photographer, the answer will be no.
If they are representing traditional film photography and you do manipulated digital work, the answer will still (more than likely) be no.
( Of course, there can be exceptions to this if a curator is willing to try something different and you approach them at the right time and with the right pitch, but realize this is the exception that proves the rule and statistically quite a long-shot).

Even if your work is in the same genre as what the gallery represents, there may still be stylistic differences within that genre that means you are still not a right fit for that gallery.

You can usually get a feel for the curator’s tastes by looking at the totality of the art they represent and from that assessment , you can select your first pieces to show them (I use this method when applying to group shows quite a bit too. I always look at the work of the judges , by searching for their respective websites, and I can then tell what their tastes are and if any of my pieces may appeal to them, or if submitting to this show will be a waste of my time and entry fee).

If you start to think your work may be a fit with this particular gallery’s aesthetic, then look up some of the artists they represent and go to their respective websites. Email a few of them and ask them what it is like being represented by that gallery and if they would recommend it.
You may be surprised at how many artists (particularly painters) will email you back and even give you helpful advice (like say - if a curator never answers their emails but is accessible via an assistant or through phone calls).

if they are local, go to a few openings and get a feel for the space. See if any artwork is selling (usually denoted by “red dots” next to the piece) , who is buying, how big the crowds are and if the curator and assistants are attentive and friendly to the people attending.
Hang back and listen to some conversations. Do not open up any conversations with “I am an artist” .
Tell people you are interested in the art.. If it comes up organically in conversation, then you can bring up that you are an artist, and if they express an interest in what your work looks like, then you can show a few of your best pieces (always have your 15 best images saved on your phone or tablet and show them in increments of 5 - gauging their interest as you go to show more or stop).

All of this should be done before first approaching a gallery to get them to look at your work.

At this point you will:
Know the name of the curator (and possibly one or two of their assistants)
Not only know what kind of work the gallery represents, you will know the names of several of their artists,
Know about any upcoming shows and especially group shows (which will usually be your foot in the door there).
Know the method of submission they prefer (email, print or in-person)
Have a good idea of what it is like to be represented by them.

In other words - Do Thy Research!
(And I shall write about what to do when they say “Yes” in the next commandment!!

Thomas Dodd in Asheville NC