A Proactive Approach to Gallery Representation

Armand Cabrera

I am always shocked at how lackadaisical most professional artists are when it comes to their representation in galleries. In these economic times, it is more important than ever to have a proactive, professional approach to representation.

Most galleries are as ineffectual as the artists they represent. As some of you know, I have an Agent, Diane Burket, who deals with a lot of my gallery issues. Please keep in mind, I pay for this service. If you find you can’t manage all the details, perhaps you should hire someone, too.

For this article, I will refer to “paintings”. However, these tips apply to any type of art you may create and wish to sell. Here are 3 things you can do to help your painting career and give yourself an edge in the marketplace.

1. Always Provide An Updated Consignment Sheet To Your Galleries
It doesn’t matter if the gallery provides a Consignment Form or you generate your own— never leave your artwork at a gallery without getting a signed Consignment Sheet proving what you have delivered to the gallery. The form should include 1) Name of Painting, 2) Size of Painting, 3) Retail Price, and 4) Amount Due To The Artist. I include an updated Consignment Sheet every time I send or drop off artwork at a gallery. With galleries going out of business at record rates, this little piece of paper might be the only thing that helps you retrieve your art from a failed gallery. Make sure you have two copies– one signed by you to leave with the gallery and one signed by the gallery for your records. If the gallery will not sign the form, don’t give them any work.
2. Keep A Photographic Record Of Your Work
Provide the gallery with digital images of your work for their website; don’t wait for them to shoot your paintings. You know what your paintings look like. You shouldn’t rely on your galleries to capture an accurate image of your painting after it has been varnished. I want my galleries contacting customers and selling paintings—not spending their day shooting images for artists too lazy (sorry) to do it themselves. My best selling galleries charge a fee to artists if they fail to provide professional quality images of their work. Don’t know how to shoot your paintings? Take a class, pay someone to do it or figure out how to do it yourself (like I did).

Keep a high resolution JPEG of all your paintings. If the gallery calls you about press opportunities, you’ll be prepared to provide them with the images they need in just minutes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been included in national and local press because I had a usable image ready to go. Other artists were ill-prepared and missed the opportunity.

3. Provide Your Galleries New Work
Make sure you maintain a schedule with your galleries to provide them with sellable paintings on a regular basis. One of the biggest complaints I hear from galleries is that artists dump a lot of old and inferior work on them. Why the galleries accept this substandard work is beyond me. But if you want to be represented and sell paintings, you have to provide good work for sale. I recommend swapping paintings out once a year—sooner if you are selling well or if your work is improving rapidly and there is a noticeable change in its quality.

7 thoughts on “A Proactive Approach to Gallery Representation

  1. Armand, Thanks for your blog! Tons of good information here.

    I'm a graphic artist and I work with digital images every day. When you suggest saving your images as JPEG, you might want to change that to TIFF instead.

    JPEG is a 'lossy', compressed format. When you compress a digital image such as JPEG does, you lose some pixels in the compression. When you open the image back up, the image editing program 'extrapolates' or makes up the data that was lost during compression.

    TIFF (when saved with 'no comression') will preserve every pixel of your photo. You can then open up that pure image and save in any format you like.

    Just a suggestion to keep every copy of your wonderful images looking fantastic.

    Thanks again!


  2. Mike,

    Thanks for your comments but I have to disagree. You don't ever want highres or uncompressed images on your website. It just invites piracy; I kno w too many people who have done what you suggest only to find people in foreign countries making prints and notecards with their inmages.My goal is to get people to contact me or my gallery about the paintings. It is not to show perfect reproductions.

  3. Armand, I'm afraid I didn't express myself well. You should have one 'archive' or 'master' file saved as uncompressed TIFF (to preserve all the pixels of your image). From that image you can save lower resolution images if you wish for website postings.

    If you save your master as a JPEG, you will experience pixel loss and that's not good for a master!


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