If you are an artist living in Anywhere, USA, you have probably considered taking a stab at The Big Apple. New York City is, after all, the center of the art universe. Who wouldn’t want at least one chance to see if they have what it takes to stand on this world stage.
But New York City is crowded and competitive. How do you break through all the white noise and get to the well-connected people who can make your career happen? I’ve put together my top 3 ways of meeting art dealers and gallery directors in New York City. Here they are. This will work if you work it.
1) Network, Network, Network
Believe it or not, 60% of all artists that are represented in galleries in NYC are referred by other artists. Generally what happens is that an artist who is being represented by a gallery will bring in an artist friend whose work that he admires. So rather than trying to hard-sell a gallery director on your work, a better strategy might be to just attend some gallery openings and introduce yourself to the artists who are showing. Once you meet an artist that you admire or possibly have some things in common, then just keep in touch. Try building a business relationship with them, or even a friendship. If your new artist friend likes and respects your work, they may eventually suggest you to their gallery director.
2) Direct Mail
This method has worked for me time and again. It is tried and true and always brings in leads. You must understand that direct mail works on a percentage basis. A good direct mail piece may only generate from 1% to 2% response. So that means for every 100 letters you mail, you will only get about one or two responses. So your list will have to be large to make sure you get some gallery directors to write you back. I suggest you send a minimum of 300 to 500 letters. To create your mailing address list, you can contact list brokers. Ask for names of corporate consultants, art galleries and private art dealers. Or you can compile your list on your own. ART IN AMERICA magazine complies a list of galleries each year in its September issue. And what’s good about compiling your own list is that you can select galleries that show only your style of work. Don’t waste your time promoting abstract paintings to galleries that deal with representational work.
Once you have your list you will need to create your mailing piece. This should be very simple. It includes three things: 1)Cover letter 2) Color Card 3) Self-addressed return post card. Your cover letter should be no more that 3 or 4 paragraphs. It should contain a simple introduction, then a simple statement about your work, and then a closing paragraph with your contact information, websites, etc. Your color card should have a full color image on one side and a brief biography of you with contact information on the other side. MODERN POSTCARD prints 500 of these color cards for $99. The self-addressed post card makes it easy for the gallery director to send you a reply. To get a better response rate, wait about 10 days after you make your mailing and follow-up with phone calls to each name on your list.
3) Meet them, Get to know them, Keep in touch
This method works only if you have done your homework and researched the gallery you plan to visit. You want to be very sure you know as much as you can about the gallery and it’s direction. If you are certain that your work is a good match, then you could try to speak directly with the gallery director or owner by cold calling. You might want to make a phone call first. Don’t try to hard-sell your work. Just introduce yourself and leave a color card with your contact information. Make it short and sweet. Don’t take up much of their time. You plan should be just to meet for now. Then, you will begin making a series of contact mailings and phone calls every month. Your first letter will obviously be a “thank you for taking the time to meet me” letter. That should be sent within the first week after your meeting. Then you will basically play the “don’t forget me” game by sending letters and reminders of yourself every month. Do not let more than 3 months go by without a mailing or contact of some kind. They will forget you after 3 months if you don’t keep reminding them of your work.
Always remember, art is a business………..
Andy Warhol always talked about the art of business. Read as much as you can on marketing and selling. Many times the sale goes not to the person who can make the best art but to the person who can sell the best.