5 Things Galleries Look For Before Representing An Artist


As an artist, getting represented by a gallery can be a big step in your career. There are a lot of benefits to being represented by a well-known art gallery, including a dependable increase in the number of people seeing your work. It’s an understandable and admirable goal for a lot of visual artists to be represented by a gallery.

The problem is it’s sometimes hard to know what a gallery might be looking for in an artist. There isn’t a clear cut list of specific things every single gallery wants from every artist they represent. You may have to look into individual galleries to find out what they specifically want but there are some general things you can keep in mind too.

Unlocking the secrets of what a gallery is looking for before representing an artist is a bit of a challenge but it’s not impossible to figure out. You just need to spend a little bit of time doing some research and possibly adjusting some of your self-marketing techniques. Keeping that idea in mind, here are five things galleries look for before representing an artist.

1. They Look For Someone Who Is Unique

Art galleries don’t want to represent the same artist 10 times over. You need to have a voice that is your own and speaks in a unique way. If you don’t have that your chances of getting represented drop drastically. As an artist, you most likely already have a unique style you feel drawn to, so make sure you’re accentuating how unique your voice and style are. 

Mary Ann Cohen, owner of MAC Fine Art Gallery talked about the idea of finding a unique artist to represent and how she and her team go about finding an artist they want to put in their gallery. Here’s what she had to say about it:

From a purely classical standpoint we look for artists that have a unique voice that is powerful, compelling and authentic but that can deliver that emotion in a unique but artistically sound style that will stand the test of time. We represent artists that are creating work that is important and visually impactful, using their medium in a unique and visionary way.”

2. They Look For Someone With Skill

You can see in the above quote that Mary looks for unique voices but she also has a few other requirements. One of the other requirements she mentions is an “artistically sound style that will stand the test of time.” This is an important factor to keep in mind. It means that you need to be unique, yes, but you can’t be so unique that you sacrifice the basics and your skill-level. 

Being unique in your voice can be a subjective thing but artistic skill is more concrete. If you feel like you’re solid in how unique your voice is as an artist but you’re still struggling to find representation there are some steps you can take. 

Skills are easy to improve. You can take classes on specific techniques or styles. You can learn how to use a new medium. You can seek feedback from other professional artists and use that to improve your artwork. These are all valid ways to increase your potential to be represented by an art gallery.

Remember that improving your skill level doesn’t mean you aren’t already a very talented artist. It just means you’re making an effort to continue to grow and keep yourself and your skills as sharp as possible. It’s not an insult to your already-acquired skills. Take any chance you can to keep growing and improving. It will help your art career exponentially. 

3. They Look For Someone With A Bright Future

Pensive beautiful young woman artist sitting and painting in art studio

Representing an artist isn’t likely to be lucrative right away. A gallery is going to be investing a lot of time and resources into promoting a new artist when they take them on. This means they need to understand not only what you’re doing now, but what you want to be doing three or five years from now, or possibly even beyond that five-year mark.

Galleries want to know you’re a good investment so they want to be able to see what your future looks like. They need to see your vision and believe that your abilities as an artist are enough to get you from where you are now, to where you want to be years down the road. This is why it’s important to make sure you’re able to show both past accomplishments and future plans.

Be ready to tell a gallery what your plans are to help you accomplish your goals. Are you planning to study more? Are you planning to create a large series of works? Explain what you’re doing now as well as the steps you’re taking now to ensure your future as an artist is what you want it to be. It’s important to the gallery that they’re investing in someone who is worth their time spent promoting you upfront.

4. They Look For Someone Who Knows How To Play The Game

Getting a gallery to represent you isn’t all about luck and timing. It’s not even all about how great your artwork is. A gallery wants to represent an artist who understands how things work in the art world and knows how to market themselves accordingly. This might seem like an annoying thing to be aware of but it’s truly important to your chances of getting representation.

Galleries aren’t going to be interested in someone who isn’t willing to put in the effort of understanding how valuable their time is, how to market their art or adjust their marketing techniques if they aren’t working. It’s not the most fun part of being an artist but knowing how to play the game and value the gallery’s time is important.

5. They Look For Someone Who Has An Online Presence

This is somewhat similar to knowing how to market yourself and play the game. It’s important to have a presence online because a lot of galleries display images of the works they have in their gallery on their website. If you have an online presence it means you will be bringing additional traffic to their website when people search for you and find the gallery representing you.

To a gallery, this translates to additional exposure and advertising for the gallery as a whole and that’s a big deal. Building up an online presence as you’re working to find gallery representation can really help you meet your goal of being represented by a gallery. 

Be ready to talk about your online marketing efforts. Highlight any large social media accounts you have or talk about blogs you’ve written for etc. Whatever is going to get your name out there online is something you should be ready to tell a gallery about when you’re talking with them. They will see the value in it even if you aren’t sure of the value yourself.


Indoor shot of professional smiling female artist with headphones painting on canvas in studio.

Getting represented at a gallery is going to take some effort on your part. If this is a goal of yours you can use these general ideas as a guideline for what a gallery may be seeking. Remember that each gallery is a little different but all galleries out there are going to see the value in the things mentioned here. 

You may have to search a while before you find the right fit. Galleries and artists need to be perfect for each other so not every gallery is going to work for every artist. Don’t give up. Keep looking and remember what you’ve read here. It will happen if you are persistent and effective in your efforts. Stay the course, you’ve got this handled.

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