Yes, rejection from a gallery stinks. So I thought I’d post some ideas on what to do about it that don’t involve burning down the gallery or hate mail. I should preface this by saying I got the idea for this post from Art Calendar magazine. Jack White wrote an article called “Rejection Hurts” for the May issue. While I sometimes disagree with Mr. White’s ideas, I did find this article to be “spot on.” I would like to give my own two cents, though, so that’s the great thing about having one’s own blog. 😉
Okay, so you get a rejection from a gallery or a museum. Now what? Well, as Mr. White stated, it’s best to build a thick skin. True, but also look at this as an opportunity to get a referral. If a gallery rejects you, fine. Ask them if they can recommend a gallery that would suit your work. They may know of a new space opening up that is looking for artists. Or they may just give your name to another gallery themselves. (Yes, hard to believe, but that has happened for me.) It’s no skin off their nose to give you another name. In addition, you can then contact said gallery and use the name game to your advantage by saying ‘so and so from Gallery XYZ recommended your space to me and thought my work would fit your gallery.’
As far as reasons behind the rejection go, one of the more common reasons that Mr. White does not mention is that gallery’s have, in general, 12 exhibits a year. So that usually boils down to only 12 of their artists being shown in one year (except in a group show, of course). So it is not surprising that galleries, museums, and art centers usually have a full calendar for two years in advance. Sometimes 3 years. Just because a gallery isn’t interested at the time, doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. Perhaps they will keep your information on file. Perhaps they would like to stay in touch with you. It would be wise to maintain some type of relationship with these people. If you truly love the space, then it’s worth the time and effort. Not that you should do this anyway, but if you are randomly sending your work to any and every gallery, then it’s impossible to maintain relationships with all of these people. But if there are a few spaces you would give your left arm to be in, it would be in your best interest to stay in touch. And I don’t mean in a looking-to-get-a-restraining-order sort of way, either. Just get to know everyone on a personal basis. Learn their names. Go to their exhibits. Show a true interest in their artists’ work. THEN you can fill them in on what you’ve been doing.
I liked that Mr. White ended with saying to use rejection as a motivation to move forward. Aside from moving on, though, look for ways to turn rejection around into something positive. There may be another opportunity there, you just have to dig a little.