Friday, March 23, 2007

The Great Gallery Hunt 2007 by Mitchell F. Chan


A friend of mine (and great artist as well) Mitchell F. Chan has been trying to get gallery representation here in Montreal, as well as in Toronto and Chicago. He went about it rather systematically, and then graciously allowed me to put it up here. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Dispatches from the front lines!!!

Here's the status of the Great Gallery Hunt 2007. I thought you'd be interested in which galleries were courteous in dealing with unsolicited submissions, and which ones were jerks. Of course, this process is far from scientific. I've sent inquiries/handed out portfolio to places in Montreal, Toronto, and Chicago. The criteria: I sent out stuff to galleries in Montreal and Toronto if I'd heard/experienced good things about them, and to Chicago if I'd either a) seen them advertising in Canadian Art Magazine or b) found out they participated in a major international art fair last year (Miami, Basel, Toronto, Armory Show, New York).

Oh, and also, I should point out that all my e-mails went out on a Monday, when a lot of galleries aren't open. So galleries that were open on Mondays get brownie points (I love it when places are open 7 days a week. Nothing sucks more than wanting to go for a Sunday gallery tour and finding nothing open.)

I actually think this is pretty good information for artists to have, so pass it along to anyone who's interested. If you'd like to post it on the blog, I stand by everything I've recorded here, and would be happy to see the nice guys getting the public praise and the jackasses getting roasted. I'm doing my best to judge these galleries not on the quality of the art they exhibit or on whether or not they like my stuff, just on how receptive they are to receiving an unestablished artist's submission.

Who's naughty and who's nice? We'll rank them, because ranking is fun.


Galerie de Bellefeuille, Montreal. I e-mailed them asking whom I should address a portfolio submission to. No jpegs attached. A gentleman named Tyler Benedict got back to me less than five hours later (after gallery hours, no less!) and kindly told me that Mr. and Mrs. Bellefeuille would be happy to review a portfolio addressed to them, that he had personally told them to expect a package from me, and that I should send jpegs in the interim. It's hard to begrudge them their success when they're this classy.

Art Mur, Montreal. Sent them pretty much the same e-mail, no jpegs, as I sent to Bellefeuille. They got back to me the next day telling me to address my porftolio to their co-owner and thanked me for my interest. Again, very classy.

Galerie Lausberg Contemporary, Toronto. A new, fairly expensive high-end gallery here in Toronto. I walked in on them while one of the directors (who I think was in town from Germany) and his staff were installing an exhibition, and he still took some time out to take my portfolio, examine the package, and thank me for my interest, promising me he'd take a look at it. People like this are a welcome addition to my neighborhood.

Engine Gallery, Toronto. A fine gallery here on Queen West. Co-director Chris Knights was eager to take my portfolio, complimented the package after looking it over thoroughly, and promised me he and his business partner Stephen Schwartz would take a look.

Walsh Gallery, Chicago. Another no attachment e-mail inquiry. They got back to me the next day telling me that they weren't accepting new artists, but a woman named Holly Congdon said I was welcome to go ahead and send some jpegs, and if they really blew the director away, they'd request a full portfolio. Of course, the director wasn't blown away, but that's not the point: they allowed that it was possible. Love it.

Galerie d'Esté, Montreal. Mark Leibner replied to my e-mail the next day, asking for more jpegs, and then actually called me on the phone to ask to see some work in person. Full disclosure: this wasn't the first time they'd seen my work, so I sent a jpeg with the first e-mail to jog their memory of me. I'm just saying this because it may skew the neutrality in the random-act-of-kindness value.

XEXE Gallery, Toronto. Gave them a portfolio, they told me they were doing reviews in June, but would be happy to hold onto my portfolio until then.


Leo Kamen Gallery, Toronto. Dropped off a portfolio in person there, and they gave told me pretty much the same thing as Walsh: they're not even close to looking for anybody, but if you don't mind never seeing this thing again, we'll at least keep it on file. They get bonus points because the woman working there, Eve, was very friendly, and at the very least looked through the whole portfolio while I was there.

Moore Gallery, and Diaz Contemporary, Toronto. Accepted my portfolio without event.

Edward Day Gallery, Toronto. Reluctantly took my portfolio after I twisted Director Mary Sue Rankin's arm, and after one of the male staff informed me that it would likely be going straight into the garbage bin. But still, Ms. Rankin did seem to have a soft spot for precocious young artists, and was ultimately quite respectful.

Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago. Again, I e-mailed asking whom I should address a portfolio to; no jpegs attached. Shane replied in 7 minutes telling me he wasn't accepting submissions. Here's my attitude: it's fine if someone isn't accepting submissions, as long as they take the time to acknowledge the people who are knocking on the door. It was nice to at least get an e-mail back. So they get points, and are spared my wrath.

BIG THUMBS DOWN: these places oughtta be ashamed of themselves,

Chicago: Zg Gallery, Perimeter Gallery,

Montreal: Sandra Goldie, Galerie Simon Blais

Toronto: Thrush Holmes Empire

These places didn't bother replying at all to e-mails asking about where to direct portfolios. Maybe they're busy, maybe it was a bad week, I don't know. But it surely can't be that hard to reply to an e-mail, and I'm going to pepper a little bit extra disdain on the galleries above who purport to be supporting emerging artists. Anyone who uses the term emerging in their mandate and can't even reply to applicant queries, well...

Overall, though, I was surprised by just how many galleries actually did take the time to reply to me—the response rate was very encouraging. I'm also coming away from this with the idea that galleries in Montreal are much friendlier than over here. I'm a little surprised by this considering a lot of the horror stories I'd heard about how competitive the quest for gallery space is here.

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