If your dream is to show your artwork in a gallery, one of the most common ways to get your foot in the door is to “wow” them with your artist’s packet.
What is an artist’s packet?
An artist’s packet is the first thing that most galleries will see when you approach them with your work. Most gallery owners are far too busy to let artists drop by and show off their portfolios, so instead they require hopeful artists to send an informative artist’s packet through the mail. This allows them the chance to look through your artwork and relevant information at their own pace.
Before you mail off your artist packet to every gallery in your city, first you should conduct due diligence by either researching the art galleries in person or online. Look at the type of art they show; would your work fit in with the styles and subjects they show? If so, call the gallery or check their website to see if they accept submissions. If they do, you’re good to go.
An artist’s packet is basically your way of “introducing” yourself to a gallery owner and/or curator. Be sure to include:
- Reproductions of your art – In the old days, it was the norm for artists to send slides to galleries. These days, while some galleries may still prefer slides, many galleries now prefer CDs or inexpensive, but true-to-life, print-outs. You can call the gallery or check their website to see which format they prefer. In any case, make sure you take high-quality scans or photographs of your artwork so that the gallery owner can get a strong feel for what your work looks like.
- CV or resume – Your CV or resume really shows the what, where, and when of your art career thus far. You should include things like: education, previous exhibitions (such as gallery or museum showings, art festivals, etc), previous and current gallery affiliations, major commissions, works sold or notable private collections, awards and grants, magazine and newspaper mentions, interviews and reviews, workshops you’ve led, artist-in-residence programs you have participated in, and any other art-related accomplishments.
- Press Clippings – If your work has been reviewed by the press, include photocopies of those reviews.
- Artist Statement – The artist statement explains the “why” and “how” of your work. It should answer questions like: What are you trying to express? What does the viewer need to know when he/she looks at your work, in order to understand it correctly? The artist statement should never be more than 1 page in length. Remember that gallery owners are busy people – they wouldn’t have time to read more than a page!
- Bio – Your bio should also not be more than 1 page in length; usually a paragraph will suffice. Your bio will be more casual than the artist statement, letting the gallery owner know who you are and what makes you unique.
- Business card – A business card shows that you are professional, so be sure to include a high-quality business card in your packet.
- A letter of introduction – When you put your artist packet together, put the letter of introduction on top of everything else. Address the letter to the gallery owner by name. (If you don’t know the person’s name, call to find out.) Explain to him or her how you first heard of their gallery and tell them why you feel your art would be a good fit. Again, keep your letter of introduction short and sweet – it should fit easily on 1 page.
- SASE – If you want your materials returned, include a self-addressed stamped envelope.
After you send off your artist packet, you can relax and paint! It is polite to give them a follow-up call a week later to make sure they received the packet, but try not to be pushy. Gallery owners are busy people and they will review your work in their own time.