The gallery is a business, just like any retailer, it uses vendors to supply the merchandise it sells to make a profit. Galleries will take a sales commission from the retail sales price when the art sells. Rarely, does the gallery buy the art direct.
Sales commission rates are negotiable especially the higher percentage rates. The quoted split is usually 50/50 but tends to be lower in small galleries, artist's co-ops, and galleries that house other businesses on the premises.
Not all art will sell in all galleries. Many times a gallery will have a certain type of art based on their existing clientele. Not all galleries are created equal. Most "mall galleries" are set up to rent wall space on a monthly basis. I have known many artists that have been very disappointed about the lack of sales. The "mall gallery" is in the space rental business, not art sales business.
Visit as many galleries as you can. Observe the art, the framing, the customer flow and the sales staff. Act like a regular customer look at the art prices, the artists names, and the clientele that shops there. If the staff speaks do not talk about your art. Do not announce you are an artist and would love to show at this gallery, unless you have been invited and have an appointment. That is the art gallery directors pet peeve!
When you think you have found the gallery for your work check out their website. If they offer a newsletter or guest book, do sign up so you can be contacted when the gallery is having shows and start attending them. If you know artists that show there you may want to ask them how they like the gallery.
Check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure they have had no complaints on the gallery or the owner/director. Google the gallery and to see what type of web presence they have. You should find articles about events the gallery has held, take your time to look at those. You want to know that they do sell art and promote artists on a regular basis.
If you feel this is the gallery for you, start attending their events so you can develop a relationship with the artists, the gallery directors, owners, managers and staff. Never talk about your art at someone else's art opening, that is very rude. Even if asked; just discreetly hand out your business card and say give me a call. Don't you just love their art work! Keep the focus on the featured artist and the gallery!
Some will tell you they do not accept unsolicited art inquiries. In that case, the only way to get in would be through a referral from someone the gallery already does business with; either one of their clients or one of their artists.
After you have been to several events the director and staff should know you by name. Then you can call or email and ask about meeting to look over your portfolio. It takes patience. Some times before getting to that point; they will ask you to bring in samples of your art.
Happy Gallery showings to you...
PS All artwork here by (me) Jean Bourque