"The process by which an artist’s work finds its way into a commercial gallery is often long and circumvented. Stein was gracious, politely tenacious, and smart. Professional relationships can often be analogous to marriage, and after three years of “dating,” I was certain that I liked Stein as a person. This was someone with whom I would enjoy working on a day-to-day basis; someone whom I could trust; and someone who clearly has a bright future, so that after one successful show I will not be left in the lurch with no further compelling work to promote."-Brian Paul Clamp, director,ClampArt (New York City)
The above quote is from this article on the F Stop photography website.
Articles like this should be required reading for anyone looking for gallery representation, from the newly minted BFA or MFA to even older, more experienced artists. Even though this article comes from the viewpoint of a commercial gallery that specializes in photography, the lessons are general enough to cover any kind of artist seeking professional representation.
I can relate to this because it parallels the way I wound up being represented by the gallery I work with, the Bridgette Mayer Gallery here in Philadelphia. When she opened her gallery here around 2001, I was already looking at a couple of other galleries in the city for representation. I made it a point to go to the openings of shows she had as well as checking out the work at other times, as I was genuinely interested in some of the artists she was showing. I introduced myself and got myself onto her mailing list. At the same time, my work was gaining some attention after it was included in a prestigious regional exhibition grant competition and other local exhibitions.
The 'dance' began in earnest when Bridgette asked me to bring some slides and other materials to the gallery for review. About three or four months went by and then she scheduled a studio visit for another three months down the line. In the meantime, we stayed in touch and I kept working as usual.
In the spring of 2002, she came to my studio. She was really interested in my work as I was her gallery, and I remembered that we had a long conversation that afternoon. I was in a transitional period with my work, changing how I painted and was moving towards a more hard-edged, geometric abstraction from work that was more based on biological forms. She had a lot of questions about what I was doing and how I saw the work developing, etc...
At the end of that conversation, she offered to represent me. I took some time to look think about it, asked her some questions and after a couple of weeks, I signed on with her. The relationship we've built over the intervening 7 years has grown to one where there is friendship, mutual respect and benefits on both sides. As with any other relationship, it's constantly evolving and, so far, things are going along well, even with the economic crap storm that's been happening. It's good to know that there's someone standing behind my work in the good and bad times.