Photo courtesy of Illume Gallery of Fine Art
Gallery owner Jane Bell Meyer has built a career elevating the careers of artists.
Meyer recently sat on the panel discussion “Be a Profitable Pro: The Business of Art” at the 2018 Plein Air convention where she talked about maximizing visibility, networking and how to become a more successful, profitable professional artist.
We were able to catch up with her to get some advice on how and why artists should work with galleries.
Why should artists seek gallery representation? What are the benefits?
It’s very rare that an artist will receive international recognition without representation. If you don’t have gallery representation, it’s tough for big collectors to start collecting your work— they see accomplishment through representation.
Galleries have the ability to lift people, to ignite a spark and to inspire something within them. That spark is in the paint, in the clay, in the fingerprints. It’s the same as seeing a picture of you rather than talking to you. The energy is right there in the gallery.
What should artists look for when selecting a gallery?
If you choose the correct gallery, you have not just one person, but a team behind you—a team that is working constantly for you. We have a great online presence, a newsletter, and we advertise nationally. When we promote that artist, we don’t charge that artist. It is part of the gallery relationship.
Because we consistently do ads, we are always working on making a bigger name for our gallery—which in turn reflects positively on the artists represented.
It’s important for gallerists to keep a narrow eye. We look to fill the gallery with artists that are at the same level and also have goals with the artists. We want artists to trust us and know that we have their best interests in mind. You don’t want to be in a gallery that is also a transmission exchange or sells candles
What differentiates one gallery from another?
The gallery relationship with collectors is extremely important and follow-up is extremely important.
At Illume Gallery, the first time someone buys something they get a binder with the piece they just got with an artist statement along with the work. It is now not only good for the insurance, but also for advertising that artist because it sits on the collector's table.
Whenever I sell something, I want it to benefit the artist and the collector.
What advice would you give to artists to better prepare themselves for success?
Years ago, when I went out to find the artists, I was begging for artists to get started. Knowing now who I get to represent humbles me to the core.
In order to sell the work, I have to love it. The first thing I look for is the quality of the artwork.
Then, next, I look for is who that person is—I ask other galleries; I ask people who have purchased their art; I ask other artists, and meet them personally.
Our gallery is a team and family, everyone has to have the quality of supporting everyone and a sense of love and camaraderie with the artists. They might not meet each other for years, but they are cheering each other on online.
If you don’t have a team mentality, you aren’t on my team. We don’t allow any bad talk about other artists—not just ours, but any gallery. We won’t put down other artists to get a sale. It’s important in our gallery to maintain integrity.
What are some definite “don’ts”?
You can make an intro call and send images, but don’t drop in. Respect the time of the gallerist. We get about 40-50 requests a week on social and email. Artists are welcome to send images, but not in the mail or a disc.
We don't want art from other galleries that didn't sell. Every artist is giving me their best work.
Since no piece of art is ever put in the closet—everything is on the wall— I need to make sure I can replace those pieces. The artists need to be able to get another quality image.
How do you go about finding new artists?
I follow artists on social media. I read up on them in magazines and go to shows to see what they are doing.
I watch how artists support other artists. I first have to love the art, but I also have to admire them.
Any other general advice for artists?
Join organizations. Go to shows and as many as possible to get a reputation for their own name. You need to push yourself and your gallery, because that’s what we are doing.
Work on getting awards and work on your own career. Keep your website up-to-date and linked to the gallery. You have to have prices on your site that are in the gallery.
Want more advice on approaching galleries? Check out these 7 tips for getting a gallery to notice your art.