Approaching gallery curators

This article talks about how artists might build relationships with gallery curators.

What gallery curators do

The gallery curator makes decisions about which artists a space will exhibit. Sometimes the gallery director is also the curator. If a gallery doesn’t have a named position of ‘curator’, it will still have an individual (or a board) who decides this. If you want to show at a gallery, these are the people you need to identify and make aware of your practice.

Building relationships

Sending unsolicited applications to curators is a waste of time. They are usually too busy to read them and respond. It’s a gallery curator’s job to find artists to exhibit. It is much better to put yourself in a position where your work can be seen or where you can be introduced to them.
You need to build relationships with curators, not simply bombard them with material in the hope that they will attend an event. Although this may seem to be a ‘Catch-22’ situation, here are some tips to bear in mind when courting a gallery.
  • Research who makes decisions there. Look on a gallery’s website or ask your networks.
  • Spend some time engaging with the gallery’s programme. Regularly attend private views and talks there.
  • Gallery curators have friends in the art world – (tutors, critics, art journalists, gallery owners). If you have peers in common, ask for an introduction.
  • These peers may be able to influence what exhibitions and artist’s studios a curator goes to see. This is one of the reasons that growing your network is so important as an artist. Through ‘six degrees of separation’ someone you know may recommend your show or work to a gallery/curator
  • Think of the reputation of any group shows you get involved with. Every show you are in is a reflection of your work.
  • Many curators go to open studio exhibitions, as they can see large numbers of artists’ work at one time.
  • Curators are happy to visit artists’ studios if they have time, but hassling them about a visit will not help.

Other kinds of curators 

While some curators work for specific galleries, others work independently as freelancers. These curators often work with spaces on a project-by-project basis. Every curator has an individual way of working. If you are hoping to build a relationship with one then it is important to understand how they work. Read our curator case studies to find out more.

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