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Interview with an Art Gallery owner.

I had the pleasure of speaking to and interviewing Joanne from Thompson Landry Gallery located in Toronto’s popular Distillery District. We had an opportunity to discuss what it takes to be showcased in her world class gallery, and other galleries in Toronto and around the globe.

Joanne is no stranger to art. She has been working with artists for 16 years, primarily Quebec artists which she favours for her gallery. When asked what she is looking for in art to showcase in her space, she simply said it has “all to do with their voice”. As we know, a painting can speak to us, and Joanne has developed the ability to hear the message. She reiterated that she is looking for artists that “have something new to say” through their art. A new medium, or technique are good examples. Age, culture, self-taught, school- taught, and even the winner of an art competition do not apply when she is considering buying for her gallery.

When I probed a bit more about what it takes to get noticed by her or any other gallery buyer, she shared a lot of valuable information for young artists, starting with their approach.

As a general suggestion, she advises that artists make a list of galleries that they prefer working with. Starting with 10 galleries with a good reputation, that also showcase art similar to their own. From there, reaching out directly with an initial phone call is the best approach. This will allow the opportunity to ask the buyer how they would prefer to view their art, and establish a rapport with the buyer. For example, Joanne would prefer small email images sent initially, that don’t take a long time to load. She also insists that she will never review a candidate without a cover letter outlining their interest in working with her gallery.

Following this initial interaction, a follow up call/email is a great way to reconnect with the buyer. If for any reason the buyer is not interested, she encourages young people to ask them questions on what they can work on to improve their art, all while respecting their time.

Joanne had some other words of wisdom to share with young artists trying to break out into the mainstream markets and gain exposure and sales. Below are a few key points to consider.

  1. Don’t try to do something that makes others happy. Create from your heart.

  2. Learn more about the galleries you are pitching your art to. Do they support their artists with art shows? Do they like to meet their artists to build lifelong partnerships?

  3. Ask other artists what galleries you can approach locally or around the world.

  4. Look out for scams where buyers might ask you to ship your art to them and never make payment. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  5. Don’t let a couple of rejections get you down. All good artists get rejected.

  6. Although agents can be great, you don’t necessarily need to work with one.

Monetizing your art can be difficult. Each gallery has a different approach. Thompson Landry carries art on consignment. If the art does not sell after a long period of time then it is sent back and swapped out at the expense of the gallery. The initial shipping cost is absorbed by the artist. A work that is commissioned is paid upfront to the artist.

On your quest to find galleries to display your art, I hope you encounter gallery owners that are as passionate about their artists as Joanne is. Good luck!

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