Thursday, April 2, 2015

How to get a gallery

After I finished my studies at Minerva Academy, sometime in the early seventies, I sort of gave up painting. I wanted to make music and that's what I did. I even quit my teaching job to be a full time musician. But when the band I played in hadn't made it to world fame after a few years, it split up and I went back to teaching.

It wasn't till 1996 that I started painting again. Felt a sudden and deep urge to pick up my brushes and I didn't put them down ever since. After some time I wanted to show the world what I made, so I started looking for galleries. The internet was not yet in full swing, so I wrote letters with one or two pictures of my work. If I was lucky I got a rejection letter, but very often not even that. Sometimes (if I felt confident enough) I picked up the phone to make an appointment with a gallery owner to show my work. I made quite a few miles with paintings in the trunk of my crappy car. Every now and then I got lucky and after a few years my work started selling. In 2004 I quit my teaching job for the second time and I've made a living doing what I love best since then. Feel really blessed.

Beach poles, oil on panel, 70 x 100 cm

Trying to get a gallery to show your work is one of the more unpleasant aspects of a painter's life. Still you have to put in the hours, again and again. Here are a few tips that may help:

- Before you get in touch with a gallery do some research. Find out about their artists and how you fit in, or more precise, what your work will add to the gallery. 'What's in it for me' is a common question for a lot of people and gallery owners are just like people. They want to know what your work will add to their business.
- Never barge in on a gallery owner unannounced. They hate that, they feel ambushed and your chances are reduced to practically zero.
- Try to think of a strategy. I often sent an email to a gallery, announcing that I would send them a book on my work. This gave me a reason to contact them again, had the book arrived? Have a number of questions prepared. When you got a conversation going, your chances are growing.
- Don't overdo it. It's frustrating work and you got to spread your frustration thin. Painting is to much fun to let it be ruined by gallery rejections.

If you have a story to share about your search for galleries, please let me know!


  1. Great to here about your struggle to get work into galleries, it's the same with my photography..mind you I don't have my own website or Blog so perhaps that's something I need to produce. I just keep producing photographs and now trying to undertake painting.

    Phil in Suffolk UK

  2. Thanks for your comment Phil! Maybe you should give YouTube a try. Posting videos did a lot of good for me!

  3. Very good post, Janhendrik! Good to know, that even you had to fight and struggle in the beginning... Very encouraging, thanks for that!

  4. You're welcome, Christian. Over time I sort of learned to roll with the punches. I don't worry like I used to when things don't go like I want them to. I just keep working and I know that, given time, it'll probably get better. Seen it before. And if not, well, that's life...

  5. Great philosophy of life. I think that it is a question of lived years.
    Let me a suggestion: your video with subtitles in Spanish. It would make to us, the Spanish-speaking ones, very happy.
    Congratulations for your work and luck in your next exhibition.

  6. Thanks for your suggestion, Isabel. I'll think about it when I post my next video. I'll have to rely on Google translate and my Spanish is not good enough to check the translation on mistakes...