Continuing on from this weeks posts on exhibiting your work, today we have guest contributor and photographer Patrick Heagney talking about having gallery representation and the differences between showing your work through them vs. putting on a show by yourself.

from "Paper Thin"

The main difference between putting on a solo exhibition by yourself and putting on a show when you're represented by a gallery is that it's tremendously easier with gallery representation.  The gallery will handle all of the little details that most artists want nothing to do with.  They will provide the food if there is to be any, and much more importantly, they will make sure there is plenty of booze flowing to ensure everyone has a good time.  The gallery will also handle promotion.  Most galleries have a long contact list that they cultivate over the years including press contacts, art lovers, and most importantly collectors.  Before the show they will do some or all of the following: send out email invitations, post announcements on their website, send out press releases and postcards, tweet about your upcoming show, etc.  Not to say that you shouldn't actively promote the show yourself, after all the idea is to get your work seen by as many people as possible and you most likely have at least a few contacts that aren't on the gallery's list; but the gallery will do the heavy lifting. Another potentially tedious chore that an artist with representation is spared is actually having to hang the show.  Once the work is delivered, the gallery will layout and then hang the artwork themselves.  Having gallery representation really lets you focus on being an artist and not having to worry about being a party planner. 

images on display at Hagedorn Foundation Gallery
There's no surefire way to get gallery representation however, and there are many different approaches you could take in trying to achieve that goal.  I can't say that any one is better than the other, different things work for different artists and no two gallery directors are the same.  There are a few things you can do to prepare though.  For starters, have a printed portfolio.  Gallery owners almost always want to see how the work is going to look in person before agreeing to show it.  I personally think simpler is better when it comes to this, no mats, definitely no frames, just clean and well crafted prints.  There is no set size but I would recommend something in the 13x19 to 20x30 range.  Of course if all of your work is only meant to be shown 4x6, then show that, again there are no hard and fast rules.  

from "This Too Shall Pass"

You should also have a website.  Sometimes, particularly if you are courting an out-of-town gallery, it's not possible or not practical to get an in person appointment with the gallery director to show your work.  In this situation, a website can help you get your foot in the door.  If the gallery likes what they see on the website they will most likely still want to see printed work also, but you might never get to that stage without an online presence.  There are a number of free portfolio websites, is one example, and seriously - it's 2011, there is absolutely no excuse not to have an online gallery to show your work. 

In terms of what work to show, you should always present the work you believe in the most.  You'll be expected to talk about it with the gallery owner and, if you get a show, with the patrons that come to the opening and possibly at an artist talk.  So it should definitely be something that you're passionate about.  Galleries tend to like to see bodies of thematically similar work.  If you don't create work in a series, at least edit down your individual images into some sort of theme, i.e. summer, nature, nudes, etc.  This will both give your portfolio a cohesive feel and it will look better on the walls of a gallery.

images on display from "Memoria Technica"

Before contacting different galleries, the first thing you should do though is to research which galleries would be the best fit for your work.  Aside from the obvious, such as not approaching a gallery that only shows paintings when you have a photography portfolio, try to find a gallery that fits your style.  Gallery owners usually cultivate a certain style or feel that they like to keep consistent from show to show.  Do your research and you'll find people much more receptive to looking at your work. 

Once you've gotten everything together, it's time to hit the pavement.  Visit in person, email, call, send samples of your work; make contact with the galleries and find out how to schedule an appointment to show your portfolio.  Sometimes you'll get an in-person review, but more frequently the gallery will ask you to drop some work off or will ask for a website.  If they like it, they might ask you to participate in a show or offer you your own show.  If your work does well and is a good match for the gallery, then they may add you to their roster of artists that they show regularly.

from "Perpetual Nascency" currently on display at Kai Lin Art

Having a working relationship and/or representation with a gallery has a lot of advantages and in my opinion, very few disadvantages.  They promote your art and your openings, they provide the space and the refreshments.  They take care of arranging and hanging your work and then act as salespeople for it.  In exchange they will take a commission on all of the work sold.  A normal amount is somewhere between 30%-50%.  They will also expect you to produce new work regularly, which for most working artists is something we should be in the habit of anyway. 

Contributor Bio: Patrick Heagney is an Atlanta-based professional photographer. He received his BFA in Photography from The Savannah College of Art and Design. His work has been featured in numerous publications including The Architectural Digest, Atlanta Magazine, Southern Accents, and Veranda. Some of his clients include: Polyvinyl Records, The Royal Bank of Scotland, and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Patrick has been showing his fine art work in galleries across the country since 2000 and is under the representation of Kai Lin Art where he currently has work on display through December 3rd, 2011. The gallery will be featuring a collection of new work from his series "Perpetual Nascency" as well as the work of three other photographers in the photo exhibition SNAP.

Kai Lin Art: