Key Opportunities for Presenting Your Fine Art to Industry Professionals

Friday May 07, 2010 by Mary Virginia Swanson,

Posted in: Building your Business

If you are a fine artist, or if you are a commercial illustrator or photographer with a fine art portfolio and you wish to pursue fine art as a business, there are a number of paths open to you. Below you will find information on the types of venues and industry professionals you should be aware of, as well as important organizations and events which provide opportunity for artists to show their work:

Commercial Galleries

Commercial galleries are sales-oriented, build their sales commission into retail prices, and generally do not require any participation fees from the artist. You can anticipate delivering the work ready for presentation with the cost of final framing often shared by the artist and the gallery. You may also be asked to share the costs of special marketing efforts such as print advertising. The majority of galleries reflect this business model.

Non-Profit Art Galleries, Art Centers and Organizations

Non-profit galleries, art centers and organizations are most often dedicated to nurturing emerging artists. They are audience-driven, not sales-oriented, and provide exhibition opportunities (quite often group shows), along with other types of services and support for artists. These organizations depend on government grants, corporate funding and private donations. Some offer membership programs. Collaborating with non-profit venues offers artists opportunities to gain experience preparing for exhibitions, writing about their work, determining pricing and working through other related issues.


Museums are typically non-profit, permanent institutions that acquire, conserve, research, communicate and exhibit fine art. All museums will develop educational offerings for the public to engage with the works in the collection. They may publish catalogs and travel exhibitions they originate to other venues. Some museums offer opportunities specifically for contemporary and emerging artists.

University Museums and Galleries

These museums and galleries are affiliated with and/or located at a particular educational institution. They exhibit fine art in their venue(s) and in addition, might have a permanent collection of art. They promote educational programming throughout their institution's academic department, often engaging their broader community, and may publish a catalog or brochure to accompany an exhibition.

Art Consultants

Individuals and corporations often hire art consulting specialists or companies to recommend and/or purchase art for their art collections. Commercial galleries are often hired to perform art consulting and purchasing for individuals and corporations.

Corporate Art Curators

Many corporations have collections of fine art and purchase art specifically to display in their offices and affiliated venues, and acquire art for investment purposes. Corporations may employ curators who select and purchase art for the company. Curators may be employees of the company who manages the art collection as part of his/her responsibilities or may work as freelance independent art curators.

Cooperative Galleries

You usually must be a member of a cooperative gallery and pay a membership fee before you can exhibit with this group. You might also have to volunteer or contribute some time to the group or provide some other form of support. You should plan on managing all aspects of installation and promotion of your exhibition in this type of venue. Cooperative Galleries can provide an excellent learning experience for artists new to exhibiting their work.

Juried Exhibitions/Competitions

When you enter your work into juried competitions, a noted individual or panel of professionals will curate an exhibition from all work submitted. Often these types of shows are organized around a theme and most require payment of an entry fee to offset costs. Some result in gallery exhibitions, others may appear online only. There are many publications and websites with information about juried exhibitions and competitions, including:

Gallery Expos

An effective way to gain insight into the type of fine art represented in a number of galleries is to attend a gallery expo or art fair where many galleries offer their inventory for sale to the general public under one roof. Often, cities host more than one art fair at a time, enabling collectors to maximize their opportunity to see and acquire artwork. These events represent opportunities for you to research appropriate galleries for your work, not to present your portfolio to dealers. Gallery expos provide an opportunity to examine how work is presented, price points, edition structure and to overhear the dialogue between dealers and prospective buyers; there is much to learn from attending and observing an art fair.

There are many gallery expos for you to attend, including:

Portfolio Review Events

Portfolio review events allow you to present your work to a group of industry experts who can point you in the appropriate direction for your work, and who can expose you to exhibition, representation and sales opportunities. Your most important relationships with fine art professionals can begin at these events if you are prepared, present your work clearly and follow up with Reviewers afterwards (if requested). Note that some events are juried, while others open registration on a first-come, first-served basis. All sell out, so get on their mailing lists today.

Note: ASMP-NY is hosting Fine Art Portfolio Review, an event on May 26th, 2010 that is open to all ASMP members, free of charge (advance registration required, visit for details).

There are many websites and blogs with information about portfolio review events, as well as the sites for these annual or biennial events, including:

You can visit my blog for updates on these and other related events:

There are many opportunities to promote your work and advance your fine art career. The more you are able to present your work to industry professionals, colleagues, friends and acquaintances in a variety of venues and settings, the more knowledgeable, skilled and confident you will be in your ability to articulate and write about your work. As in all fields, continuing education and networking are keys to success. Get your work out!

Article © 2010 Mary Virginia Swanson

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