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Letter to Artists: So, you want a curator/gallery to represent/promote/sell your artwork?

Dear Artist,

My father was right.  "No man is an island," he would tell me time and again when I needed to get things done. He meant, we live in a community of colleagues, family and friends where communication is crucial.

If you are invited to show your work at an exhibition there are a few things you must do.
  1. Professional behavior includes courtesy and preparedness. Communicate with the curator or gallery owner about your work.
  2. Provide information immediately. The kind of information you will be asked to give is typically:
    • Your resume or CV (curriculum vitae), your bio and a statement of your most recent work
    • Your contact information: telephone, mailing address, email
    • Your tax ID number
    • Titles and year of your work, including medium, dimensions, edition and price
    • You should do this as soon as you have confirmation of your exhibition dates
    • And seriously, if a curator requests you to prepare work for a special exhibition, think twice. There is no time like the present and if you have good quality current work, that is what needs to be shown. Preparing new work under pressure is never a good idea. Period.
  3. Always have excellent quality high resolution images of your work on hand. If a catalog or print materials will be distributed for the exhibition, high resolution images need to be delivered to the curator 8 weeks before the exhibition opens. It takes a lot of time to design a postcard and catalog, and you want it beautifully done. Who wants an ugly card, right?
    • A high resolution image is no less than 300 dpi and about 2400 pixels at its largest measure
    • A low resolution image is usually 72-100 dpi and around 800-1000 pixels
    • You can deliver both for the exhibition? Your curator will love you!
  4. Be prepared to deliver your work for installation on time.
  5. Know the physical limitations of your work.
    • If it's heavy, be prepared with extra tools and assistance to install the work.
    • If your work depends on technology, provide technological tools and be prepared to advise on best installation methods.
    • If your work is especially fragile, be prepared to address safety concerns with the gallery owner, at installation and when shipping it out to clients.
    • Always remember, you're the artist and you know your work best.
  6. Help the curator and gallery promote your show. Talk it up. If you're on Facebook or love to Tweet, publicize your work. Do you have a blog or website? Post an announcement. We live in the 21st century, a world of broad social networks, where everything helps. 
  7. Show up at the opening reception on time. There is nothing worse for a curator to open a new exhibition to an audience waiting for the artist to arrive. You're the star, and this is your work. Be nice to the curator who invited you to show your work, and respect the audience that may acquire your work.
  8. Did you invite special clients? Introduce them to the curator and gallerist. This helps everyone network and create new friendships, but it makes you look professional, poised and confident of your own relationships. It also reassures the gallery you will let them manage your sales from this exhibition.
  9. Never, ever, boast about your studio sales. That's the quickest way to kill any future relationships. And why would you want to hurt the people that want to promote your work? Remember, "No man is an island" and we can all do so much more if we work together.
  10. There is no excuse for bad manners or poor communication. There are a lot of artists around, and this has been true for hundreds of years. We know about the 'bad boys' of art, but it's the professionals who appreciate the work involved with putting together an exhibition that shine and are remembered.
Can you skip any of these steps? No, not really. It's like there is nothing that's halfway good or bad. It's good or bad. Never in between.

If I sound like your mother, maybe she was right. So sit up and pay attention. Grace is a rare quality, especially when so many artists are struggling. Only a few are invited to show their artwork. Be gracious, be good, be a star.