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How to get in touch with galleries and people alike

Today I wanted to share some useful tips about what you need to write when you want to get in touch with a person that you are trying to get something from. Reasons for writing someone could, for example, be to get into a gallery, to get your work reviewed or to get into an art project.

Lately, I had a conversation with another curator where we got to the conclusion that it is not useful to spam curators with your portfolio or a link to your work. Start a conversation instead. So how do you start this conversation? In the paragraphs that follow, I will be talking about how you can start this conversation with a structured approach by writing a letter or email to whoever it is. In this case, let’s take curators as the example because they are some of the more of the spammed people in the art industry :-).

Starting off: a professional start

Firstly, I believe all letters should begin with “Dear…”. I noticed that a lot of artists send emails with “Hi Fleur”. For me, this seems a little too casual for the first letter to a person you do not know. Starting with “Dear” does not offend anybody; it’s professional. I recommend being too professional rather than too casual. It sounds a little granular, but I think these things are essential to start your letter. It is a declaration of respect. So always start your first letter with “Dear… “.

The first paragraph: a compliment

The first paragraph that you are writing in your message is a compliment. As mentioned, in this case, I like to take a curator as an example, but it could be any person who you need to get in touch with. Start your letter by mentioning something about what they have done and why you loved it. Was it beautiful, unique, memorable or transformative? Write something about why you like what they do.

If you are writing to a curator that you found because you went to a local gallery or a local museum, where you saw that curator’s name, and you thought: “wow they should generate some of my work”, then use this in your mail and explain why you had that thought. For whatever reason, if you do not know this curator, research them a little bit and refer to something they have done and share your thoughts about it.

To give you an idea, your first paragraph may say: “I saw your show at the XO gallery, and I want to tell you why I thought it was one of the best shows I have seen all year, because…” and then you share one or two sentences about it. It is vital to be sincere and be aware of the fact that the curator put tons of effort in shows, but they rarely get feedback on their actions. They get mostly feedback on the artists that they have curated, rarely people do comment about the way the display is mounted, for example. Use this to stand out from the crowd and be creative in your approach to complimenting them.

So, to give you an idea on how to continue your first paragraph, you can write the following: “I like how the show is conceived and the way the artworks were connected with each other”.

The message here is that you can write anything you like as long as you did a bit of research to understand what the other person has been up to. The idea is to get them engaged in your message right away.

The second paragraph: establishing a connection

The second paragraph is about creating a connection. Establishing the connection means showing how your work connects to what this person does or their mission. So let’s start with an example of how you connect with someone on the mission level. For instance, a gallery strives for social impact and societal health. Share with them how your art has a social impact.

If you are not sure what their mission is, but you see they have done work where they have shown a series of pen and ink drawings, or where they have demonstrated a series of mixed media collage, you can share that you are a pen and ink painter. The connection here would be that you and the person you are writing to have something in common.

The third paragraph: asking your question

The third paraph contains the question you want to ask. What mostly happens is that people directly start a letter with the initial question. However, this will turn people off and won’t benefit the reply rate. So write this question in the third paragraph.

Ask for what you want. For instance say: ‘I am an artist and make {explain} kind of work and I like you to take a look at my website and be aware of my work and consider me for further exhibits.

Closing off: indicate when you will follow-up

The last paragraph, which is essential and crucial for getting answers from anyone, is to mention when you will follow-up. You can say this by for example mentioning the following: ‘I will follow-up next week by phone or with email to see if we can mean something for each other if that’s okay with you’.

If you did not receive any reply you follow-up in a week and you send that same email basically and say: “Dear Ms Bravenboer, Hopefully you are doing well. I like to follow up on the email I sent last week. Have you had any time to look at the email that I have sent you?. I am looking forward to hearing from you.”

You keep following-up (for about a maximum off three times, you do not want to become annoying) or until you get a yes or no. If they do not respond, just let it be and try again in the future. They may also write back and say “Sorry, I am too busy to look at your website at this moment” or refuse to collaborate.

That’s okay, although they did not respond to the compliment, nor did they get the connection, you got an answer. You can use this answer anytime when you try to reach out to that person again. You can also try to start a conversation from there by asking when would be better timing for you to get in touch. Following-up in a kind manner and sharing when you will follow-up, is an effective way to reach out to receive an answer to your mail.

Summing it all up

So, to briefly summarise on how to structure your letter, do the following:

– Always start your letter professional. Use “Dear…”, for example: ‘Dear Ms Bravenboer’;

– Your first paragraph should be a compliment: mention something they have done and why you like it;
– The second paragraph should show the connection between you and the other person;
– The third should be the question;
– The closing off should contain an indicator when you will follow-up:

– Follow-up for a maximum of three times;

Keep in mind that it is all about a personal connection and building that relationship! Good luck!

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