With the development of the internet and social media, there are more ways for an artist to promote themselves and display their work than ever before. However, although these new forms are valuable and can be very helpful to artists in building a reputation, being exhibited in bricks-and-mortar galleries like Agora Gallery and winning art awards are still important elements in a professional artist’s career.
In order to reach these galleries or awards, it is usually necessary to submit a portfolio of work, either to a gallery or to a competition board or examining body. Most artists will submit many portfolios during their working life — they are crucial tools in expanding the circle of people who are aware of you and your work.
Since this is the case, it is worthwhile giving some serious consideration to the best way to put a portfolio together, ready to submit. It’s likely that each one will have to be slightly different — it’s important to tailor the submission to the institution you’re applying to — but there are a number of general points to bear in mind.
Agora Gallery’s advice for portfolio submission
The first thing is not to overwhelm the gallery or competition with information. If you work in several different media or styles, don’t submit them all. This is a problem we’ve noticed before at Agora Gallery, and the effect is confusing rather than enlightening. Choose one, the one you think on observation seems to fit best with their speciality, and focus on that. Make sure that you’ve included mostly recent work; they will want to know what you’re doing now, not what you were interested in two years ago.
The point about restricting information applies to written information too. It’s good to include an artist statement explaining about yourself and, to some extent, about your work, but don’t send in ten pages and expect it all to get read. Keep it concise, and there’s much more chance of it receiving attention.
Don’t forget to put in all the necessary contact information. Agora Gallery reviews portfolios on a regular basis, and it’s striking how many artists forget to check they have included basic contact information. Leaving out your address or phone number might seem like a small thing to you, but it can make processing your portfolio much more difficult for the gallery or competition — and the more difficult you make it for them, the less kindly they will feel towards your work. Make it easy for them by following the instructions they give and you’ll start out on the right foot.
If you prefer to discuss your work in person and don’t want to submit a portfolio online or through the mail, that can sometimes be accommodated. But don’t show up and expect an appointment immediately. For example, Agora Gallery’s director, Angela Di Bello, has an extremely busy schedule, and she just isn’t able to talk to artists who walk in to discuss their work without an appointment. Ring up first, and see what time suits the gallery owner or director. Make it clear that their time is important to you, and that you appreciate their interest and want to arrange something that suits them.
The last thing is — don’t hang too much on a single submission. Professional artists get used to being rejected or passed over. Don’t worry about it — what wasn’t appropriate now might be in the future. Don’t take it too seriously, and move on.
+ Guest post by Agora Gallery.