“Cold submissions are not successful 10 times out of 10,” said Kristen Dodge of SEPTEMBER gallery in Hudson, New York, and formerly of Dodge Gallery in Manhattan. “The best way for me to connect with artists is for another artist who knows my program to make an introduction.” From there, she said, the next step is a studio visit to see if the relationship might be a good fit.
“Studio visits are really what makes or breaks my interest in working with an artist,” Dodge said. “Taking the time to stand with work in-person; listen to an artist share their perspectives, interests, and processes; and experience how all of the above is working on me—that’s the ultimate tell.”
An artist’s nicely curated Instagram feed can provide helpful context in advance, too. “If what I see is compelling enough,” Dodge said, “I’ll do more research.” While the dealers I spoke with didn’t cite Instagram as a primary avenue of discovery for new artists, it’s an obvious place to look if a peer suggests an unfamiliar name they should check out.
“I would never underestimate the power and influence of Instagram,” Nemeroff told me. “We recently did a show with the artist
from Shanghai, whose work I first took notice of on a friend and collector’s personal Instagram account. Though it took a while before the show manifested, the Instagram post was certainly the spark.”
A more traditional pipeline for dealers on the hunt for unrepresented artists is highly regarded MFA programs
. Bill Powers, of Half Gallery
, cited Columbia, Yale, and the University of Southern California as offering reliably robust programs. But he also noted that the prevalence of gallerists scouring such programs—not to mention the new MFA Fair in New York
—may mean “that avenue of discovery is coming to a close.” And while it’s increasingly rare to find working artists in the U.S. these days who haven’t pursued an MFA, that doesn’t mean dealers are perusing artists’ resumes for evidence of the proper pedigree. Graduate school can also breed a tight-knit community of peers—the same sort of social network that is so invaluable when it comes to landing on a gallery’s radar.
Overall, one thing is clear: Dealers are thoughtful and patient, and overnight success is rare.
“The learning and courting is usually a slow burn,” said Dodge. “There’s a lot that needs to be in place in terms of the work, the personality match. So much of this business is about relationship building—and I don’t mean social climbing. I mean taking the time to get to know people, building trust, and deciding that they’re worth the long run.”