Ask the Experts: Why Won’t Galleries Look at My Work?

This month’s letter comes from a reader with a question about how to show their work to a local gallery.

Dear Kat,

For the past few months I have been visiting galleries in my area looking to show my work. They all say that they aren’t taking on any new artists and won’t look at my portfolio. How can I get a gallery to look at my work?


Gallery Visitor

Dear Gallery Visitor,


Artists looking to show their work to galleries are putting themselves in a vulnerable position and it can be frustrating to feel like no one is interested. I wonder about how you are approaching these institutions—have you made appointments with these galleries? Making an appointment will ensure that they are ready for you and have set aside time to review your work. Just like doctors, hair stylists and other professionals, requesting an appointment shows that you respect the gallery’s time.

When asking for an appointment, make your intentions clear. If you are looking for an opportunity to exhibit your work, don’t pretend otherwise just to get a meeting. For galleries in your area, attending their opening receptions will allow you to get acquainted with their style and community. Keep in mind, however, that receptions are to celebrate the artists in the show. They are not the time to bring your own prints, pitch your work to the gallery, or ask the artists to make introductions.

If the gallery says that they are not taking on new artists, they are probably telling the truth. Most galleries have all the artists that they can handle. With each new artist added, others on their roster receive less attention. Most galleries prefer to grow slowly and deliberately based on their relationships and what fits their program. One of the ways that you will find success connecting with galleries is to approach those who show artists with exhibition and publication histories similar to yours. If you are just starting out, seek out galleries that hold calls for work.


Kat Kiernan, Director, Panopticon Gallery

Writing Machine ,  Jefferson Hayman

Writing Machine, Jefferson Hayman

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