In the Comments section of the Marketing Mondays on Defining Success (two weeks ago), artist Henry Bateman offered this anecdote: "Being introduced to the director/curator of a class 'A' gallery and have her say 'So you're Henry Bateman!' Is that success? The question is being asked by my bank balance."
I responded: Tell your bank account to shut up for a spell and enjoy the moment. Then follow up.
Today we talk about the follow up. I don’t know Henry, so I hope he doesn’t mind that I use our exchange as a jumping off point. His situation is a good one, because he has an opportunity to pursue the interest shown him.
If I were Henry, here's what I might do:
. Send a postcard to the director/curator saying that I enjoyed meeting her, and that as an artist it's always gratifying to have someone in her position be aware of my work. I'd invite her for a studio visit. Need I mention that the postcard would have an image of my work on the front and the URL to my website?
. Alternatively, an e-mail saying the same thing, with a live link to my website.
. . . What I wouldn’t do: Tell her I think I'm perfect for her gallery and that she should give me a show. Or ask her to give me a show. I would not call her.
. I'd invite her to my next solo show if it's local. A note on the invitation, or a note with the invitation is sufficient. If I had a catalog for the show I'd definitely send it, along with the invitation. I might acknowledge a shared esthetic sensibility, if that were the case.
. If the show is going to a distant gallery, I’d invite her for a studio preview before I send it off. (In fact, if you have a good local following, why not have a "send off" party before the work leaves your studio? Sure, you’re exhausted from the effort of getting the show finished, but since you’re already running on fumes at that point, why not go the extra mile.)
. . . What I wouldn’t do: Overwhelm her with a package with all the images, the resume, the statement. Since she's already aware of me and my work, an update with links is sufficient
. If she responds positively, I'd prepare a small packet of materials for her, something she can hold onto (ideally) and dip into when she's conceptualizing a show. Dealers and curators may not tell you this, but they often watch an artist from a distance to see where that person is showing, what kind of critical response the work gets, what the buzz in the art community is about the artist. Curators, especially, hold onto catalogs and postcards
. If there's absolutely no response to any of this from the director/curator, I'd probably keep her on my mailing list and leave it at that
. . . What I wouldn't do: Interest or no, I would not hound her. She's busy, I'm busy. She's now more aware of me than ever because of the recent exchange and my followup. Mailing list followup is all I would do from here on out until I receive a followup from her.
. And of course I'd visit the gallery regularly. You want a relationship with a gallery? Show up. Relate! Dealers don't operate in a vacuum. They appreciate knowing their creative efforts are appreciated. If you like the show, say so. Say why. Don't offer a dissertation, just a few smart and kind words.
. . . What I wouldn’t do: I would not interrupt a dealer is s/he's busy. And I definitely would not go into the dealer's office to initiate a conversation.
Artists: How do you follow up?
Dealers and Curators: What kind of follow up do you prefer? Or not prefer?
Everyone: Just to put this whole discussion into perspective, read This Summer, Some Galleries Are Sweating, by Dorothy Spears in the June 19 issue of The New York Times.
(And speaking of following up, next week I'll have a short interview with Jackie Battenfield, author The Artist's Guide, the book I reviewed last week, along with some pics from the book party at Cue.) .