In your experience, how does an artist get represented?
See lots of shows and talk to galleries when you do. They get to know the face. My first gallery began to ask about me - hence I told them of my art school and what I was doing etc. They asked to see some of my work - luck: I'm sure that they were looking for someone, but if I hadn't chatted, they wouldn't have asked me. Having one gallery makes it easier to get you another. When I approach other galleries, they will look at my work because they know I am a supporter of their gallery (they have seen me there) - even if they do not take me on (which has happened a lot in the present financial climate).
I think the best initial approach is to check that your work either suits the gallery's stable they have, or that you fill a type/gap in their stable which they may be open to. A printed portfolio, although expensive, seems to get attention nowadays - everyone else emails and the galleries' inboxes are clogged. Make an appointment first, by phone. If they won't make an appointment, ask to send them your portfolio/website address (they may not open it). Go to the gallery-tell them you like their gallery, show them you know their stable by talking about THEM and ask the gallerist in person for an appointment, at a time that suits them. Have a brag book with photos of your work ready and show it only if they won't make an appointment, but ask what kind of work you do - then you can show the book. Have a back up of a professional printed portfolio to send later, if they are at all interested, so they can keep it on file should future openings become available. And ring them or drop in from time to time (so they know you support them - see above!)
Before you approach the gallery, check out whether the gallery is financially viable - are they paying their artists and how long does it take? Check they are actually selling paintings - more than one friend has sold their work, but seen no money from galleries who depend on eager young artists willing to "sign" anything -allow galleries to do anything- so their work is exhibited.
A lot of galleries do see shows at First Draft and other ARIs etc, so go in these whenever you can, and invite the gallery to come see it.
Do you agree? Are there things I have left out? Post your comments here.
Image: Gabrielle Jones, "Tree Stack", 2009, Oil on Canvas 30 x 30cm