What Galleries Should Expect From Artists At Openings

As a gallery artist, you have a responsibility to help commercial gallerists sell your art.

Last week I wrote about the galleries' responsibility to you at an exhibition opening. Now let's talk about your role.

What should galleries expect of you and from you at an opening?

Vanessa Turner Art
Vanessa Turner talks to a visitor at her gallery opening. Photo courtesy Vanessa Turner.

Above All

Ask a lot of questions. As an artist who accepts 100% responsibility for your success, it's up to you to seek answers.

In the beginning, you might not know what questions to ask and you will learn from your mistakes. That's okay! It happens to the best of us.

But I hereby give you permission to ask all the questions you need to make your relationship with your gallery fruitful.

Common Courtesies

Do everything in your power to help the gallery sell your work. Nothing will ingratiate you to a gallerist so fast as being eager to help and professional at every turn.

Deliver your art on time.

Provide the gallery with all of the paperwork and details they require, such as your artist statement, bio, images, and inventory sheet. Galleries use these items for promoting your work.

Show up! Do whatever you can to attend an opening of your art.

Let the gallery know you are are coming to the opening – even if a formal RSVP isn't requested.

Ask them if they would like for you to come early for any reason or be there at a specific time.

Make sure gallery staff know that you have arrived.

Engage visitors in conversation – especially VIPs. Go well beyond, “It's nice to meet you.” You should always be prepared to talk about your art, but you will score an equal number of points if you show interest in other people's lives.

If you came with someone, split up. Don't use your spouse or friends as a crutch. You are in the spotlight and must mingle.

Take it easy on the libations. Having a few sips of wine at an opening is acceptable, but you are on stage. You don't want to be known as the artist who drank too much.

Understand that the visitors to the opening are clients of the gallery. They might be looking at your art, but they are not your customers.

Even though the gallery has their own customers, they expect you to bring your list to the table. If the gallery gives you information or marketing material to share with your list, share it with your list! Send postcards and emails, and post exhibition information on your website, blog, and social media profiles.

Bonus Points

Send a Thank You note to the gallery after the opening. Alternatively, do as Elizabeth St. Hilaire Nelson does and send homemade cookies!


The artist-gallery relationship is a 2-way street.

Having gallery representation doesn't release you from marketing and business responsibilities. Much is still expected of you.

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3 thoughts on “What Galleries Should Expect From Artists At Openings”

  1. Another great post. Good to see it from both sides- appreciate all that Galleries do to promote our work and we can help tremendously in so many ways. Makes for a great partnership:) Thanks again!

  2. Anuradha KHURANA

    Superb advice! As an emerging artist I just do not know if I am doing too little or too much. Its great to have these suggestions and confirmations. Thank you. Anu

  3. “My Most Embarassing Moment”
    That should be the title of my most recent art opening. I advise artists to NOT drink during the reception. The press was there, the photographer staged it by bringing another woman/patron into the composition, whereby I suddenly saw my sister-in-law; I pushed the other woman out of the way; dragged my sister-in-law into the frame; and the photograph was snapped. I learned moments later that the woman I had pushed aside was the wife of the prominent judge in town, to whom my sister and brother (who are lawyers) answer to. This is the kind of behavior I never would have partaken in had I not been so excited and so lit in intoxication.

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