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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Getting Into Galleries

How to catch the eye of a curator and get your work exhibited

Labels: How-To

Many photographers have aspirations, secret or otherwise, of hanging our finest works on the walls of an acclaimed art gallery. But how do we make that dream a reality? Outdoor Photographer sat down with Jolene Hanson, director of The G2 Gallery in Los Angeles, to discuss the practical steps photographers can take to catch the eye of a curator and possibly make it into a gallery.

"Getting work into a gallery really depends on two factors," Hanson says, "what the gallery is looking for, and what is unique about your work. As you can imagine, galleries are bombarded with artists interested in exhibition or representation; we get no less than one inquiry a day. As a result, there's a clear way in which galleries look at potential work.

"Most galleries will have an application process," Hanson explains, "or they will send out a specific call for artists. Some will require a proposal. The gallery, via their website or from the receptionist, will tell you how they accept submissions. Provide the gallery with exactly what is requested. The most important part of filling out any application is to respond to all questions even if you don't have an answer; put in N/A or the reasoning behind not having the answer."

Whatever the application process, be sure to follow it to the letter. Leave no "i" undotted, no "t" uncrossed.

First and foremost, galleries show the work of artists they already represent. That means very few slots are available for exhibition. Much like ensuring your résumé won't cost you a potential interview, following application instructions is essential. Curators are bombarded with submissions, especially in photography after the digital boom. Ensuring your work stands out from the crowd is the best way to catch the attention of a gallerist.

"Curators live for those rare moments when they're surprised by something they see," says Hanson. "They have studied their industry and see a lot of artists' work; it's rare to see something new or different. I look for a solid body of work, a clear style or vision, and consistency within the work as a whole. There are very clear distinctions that can be seen in the body of work of an amateur or a student, a photographer who's beginning to get their legs and a photographer who has found their niche. The latter has worked out the inconsistencies and is continuing to hone their craft each day."

A common mistake Hanson says young artists often make is they attempt to paint themselves as more established. It's important to be honest about where you are in your career and your craft, she says. An experienced curator looks at so much work that they will see through any posturing, and your work simply will come off as that of a poseur.

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