Guest Post: Linda Esterley on Submitting Artwork, Part II

Here’s the rest of Linda’s most excellent advice on, submitting artwork, getting it in the door safely–and up on the wall:

Now – you have to send your work!  You cannot, trust me, CANNOT just plop it in a mailer and send it along.  In the case of 2D work, find out how they want to receive it.  Matted and framed?  Eye hooks and wires?  Sawtooth hangers?  Labeled or not?  How many pieces?  Which specific pieces?  (This last one is my favorite pet peeve – if the gallery or show asks for some of your photographic work, do not send them anything but that.  Just don’t.  And if they ask for a specific photograph – just send that.  Please and thank you).  In the case of a brief show or contest that requires your work to be present, ask how they would like to handle return postage – should you send it along with the piece or send it after the show closes, if return postage becomes necessary?  Don’t ask the gallery or curator to pay return postage and “you’ll pay them back.”  Imagine that request times 100 pieces.  Your work will remain gone for a very long time.  It is not their responsibility – they have just spent untold amounts of time and money paying rent on a space to show your work, having postcards printed and sent out, alerting arts calendars, possibly printing catalogs, etc.  This is your work that you want back.  Spend $5 to make it happen.

And a quick note on shipping – follow their instructions to the letter, as they know how their deliveries run.  And the delivery address may be completely different from their street address or gallery address.  This may be because there is no one to receive your work on certain days, and it will sit outside in the elements getting snowed on and wet and possibly stolen and sold for pennies on the dollar for beer money.  Make certain to wrap and protect your precious work – double box it: place corrugated cardboard over the front & back, wrap the piece in kraft paper, then bubble wrap, protect the corners inside, and wrap the whole shenanigans in plastic, then place that inside another box.  You don’t know what conditions your package will sit in while awaiting its processing, so keep it safe.  And note any special instructions such as “no packing peanuts,” and such.  Maybe they have to pay to have certain recyclables taken away.  Who knows?  Maybe a childhood incident with packing peanuts has them soured.  Just follow directions.  Single file.  No talking.

Also, once you have been selected, don’t email the curator on a constant basis for hand holding.  They are wildly busy getting the show ready.  If you have some professional questions/concerns, handle those before sending your piece, and hopefully in one to two emails, tops.  Make certain the terms and conditions are clear and agreeable – who gets what percentage and when the checks go out.  Who is insuring the piece at what point in its journey? Will they be taking taxes out?  Will they charge a fee to offset PR?  If you are submitting to a show in a museum, and they decide they want the piece for their permanent collection, who gets paid?  (note:  sometimes no one.  Balance the cache of a resume line against the need for groceries).

The very last thing you never want to do is back out.  Word spreads fast, and that is the kiss of death to an artist.  Manage your time properly, in order to have the required number of pieces ready and in the gallery hands on time.  As a curator, I have had artists hem-and-haw two weeks before a show, then finally admit that they don’t have the work finished.  So a show that I had spent a year booking, promoting, arranging, buying fruit for was now in danger.  Only once did an artist completely back out.  I get fierce and righteous.  And although the artwork is good, I will never book another show with her, nor will I recommend her.  It’s my money and reputation on the line, and it’s too risky.

There are so many little rules and suggestions of doing things in the “right” way.  Basically, do your research first, then make it as easy on the curator or juror as possible.  A personal ditty:  I was asked to participate in a pretty important show once simply because someone dropped out at the very last minute and the gallery owner knew she could count on me to deliver my work in a way that was ready to go, and on time.  I’ll take it.

If you treat your artmaking and submissions as a professional job (because it is) you will become known and respected by gallery owners and jurors as someone that is dependable.

And those are just my ramblings about that.


Thanks, Linda–it’s excellent advice, and much of it is stuff I’ve never even thought about.

To find out more about Linda, check out her website and her blog.

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