During our upcoming Success Summit, my team and I will be reviewing portfolios and giving artists valuable feedback that I know will help them now and in the future. In my recent blog, I even listed 5 things that artists can do to help them get a gallery owner’s attention. But, today I wanted to take it a step further and share with you another expert’s opinion—not just about how to submit, but how to work with galleries. And when I think of a gallery owner with a precise eye and an impeccable attention to detail, who knows exactly what her clients want, and what artists need to do to meet those clients’ needs, I think of my one and only sister, Sylvia Rombis, owner of the Malton Art Gallery.
In addition to same criteria I am looking for in artists, Sylvia adds that she looks for both credibility and ethics in her artists. “I work with professionals. I work with people who I can have a relationship with and who I can trust to bring their work into my clients’ homes. Art is a personal thing,” Sylvia says. “It’s all about the right fit.”
How to Meet an Art Gallery Owner
Like me, she also recommends querying first, such as calling or making appointments to show any work. “Don’t just show up at a gallery,” she recommends. “You wouldn’t march past a personal assistant and barge into a CEO’s meeting and demand that he reviews your resume. He would have to stop what he was doing. He would have to pull his time away from other people who deserve his time. It’s ridiculous to think you would do that in the corporate world, and yet people do it in the art world all the time.” She tells a story of a time a man brought his eight-year-old son and laid down a number of child’s drawings on the floor of her gallery during business hours when clients and customers were in the gallery. He demanded that Sylvia looks and comment on his child’s work. “It’s crazy, but it happens. And he wasn’t the only one. Many artists do it. And it just proves to me you’re not ready as an artist and you haven’t done your homework. If you want to be treated like a professional, you need to act like a professional. That means doing the work. That means researching a gallery and understanding how your work might fit in. It also means recognizing that a gallery owner is providing you a valuable service,” she says.
Art Galleries Work Hard for Their Artists
That’s why Sylvia recommends that artists take the time to understand the industry. Over the years, she’s been questioned about why she should receive commissions for selling and promoting the artwork. “Over the years I’ve heard ‘I am the artist. I did all the work and you’re just taking the money,’” she repeats an often-heard remark from artists. But, Sylvia adds, “What I do isn’t free. To keep the gallery open, heated, lit, insured, and beautiful to attract customers to the art isn’t free. To hire assistants, farmers, and installers isn’t free. To promote the work and get it in the hands of clients isn’t free. It also takes up a considerable amount of time. What I do means artists can focus on creating work. And artists, as professionals, have to understand that there is a cost for that,” she says.
How to "Wow" an Art Gallery Owner
So how does an artist “wow” a gallery owner? Sylvia says, “First and foremost, they show me that they’re professionals. They’ve defined themselves as an artist. They treat gallery owners with respect and have selected their very best work, and they understand how we both need to work together. Any gallery owner would be happy to work with someone like this.”
And I have to say, I totally agree. Over the years, we’ve both been so lucky to work with incredible artists who do all of the above and much more. And it’s always such a pleasure to work with them and watch them flourish and succeed. As I always say: My success is an artist’s success. I couldn’t do it without artists.
More Secrets on How To Sell Your Art
If you want to learn more about how to work with galleries, there are still a couple of spaces available in our upcoming Success Summit, that begins this Friday. You won’t want to miss it! I hope to see you there.
To learn more about Sylvia and her gallery, visit www.MaltonArtGallery.com.