Getting Started as a Photo Artist: An Insider's Look | Gallery Representation for Artists

Martin Osner
18 Jul 202330:14

TLDRIn this insightful talk, Martin Osner, an experienced artist photographer, gallery owner, and art curator, shares his expertise on the intricacies of gallery representation for artists. With over 25 years in fine art photography and more than 40 years in professional photography, Osner candidly discusses his journey and the challenges faced by emerging artists. He emphasizes the importance of not underselling one's work and provides a formula for setting art prices that factor in gallery commissions and production costs. Osner also addresses the dilemma of displaying art in public spaces versus galleries, stressing the value of gallery representation for an artist's brand. He offers practical advice on approaching galleries with a professional presentation and building an audience through social media. The talk concludes with encouragement to stay persistent and creative, highlighting the importance of an artist's personal journey and connection with their audience.


  • 🎨 **Understanding Gallery Representation**: Martin Osner shares his extensive experience in fine art photography and offers advice on approaching galleries for representation.
  • πŸ“ˆ **Setting Art Prices**: There's no strict formula for pricing art, but it's crucial not to undersell your work. Consider the gallery's commission, production costs, and potential negotiation buffer when setting prices.
  • 🀝 **Building Relationships with Galleries**: Having a strong contact list doesn't guarantee success in the fine art world. It's important to build genuine relationships with gallery owners and curators.
  • πŸ’‘ **Exhibiting in Non-Traditional Spaces**: While exhibiting in places like restaurants or waiting rooms can be discouraging, it can also be an opportunity if done strategically with proper presentation and agreement on terms.
  • πŸ“‚ **Professional Presentation**: When approaching a gallery, present a cohesive body of work with an artist statement and biography. Avoid a scattershot approach and ensure your work is well-curated for the gallery context.
  • πŸ“§ **Email Communication**: If you're not getting responses to your emails, it could be due to various reasons like spam filters or incompatibility with the gallery's focus. Follow the gallery's submission guidelines to increase your chances of a response.
  • 🚫 **Avoid Unprofessional Tactics**: Don't disguise yourself as a client to pitch your work to a gallery. It's unprofessional and unlikely to lead to a positive outcome.
  • πŸ€” **Consider Your Audience**: Before displaying your work publicly, consider the type of audience and the environment to ensure your art is appropriately featured and not lost in the setting.
  • πŸ‘₯ **Social Media Engagement**: Building an audience on social media can significantly improve your chances with galleries. It provides a platform for people to connect with you and your artwork.
  • πŸ“š **Educational Resources**: Utilize resources like webinars, seminars, and online platforms to continue learning and improving your skills in fine art photography.
  • πŸ”„ **Persistence is Key**: Success in the art world takes time. Even renowned artists like Andy Warhol faced rejection. Persistence and continuous effort are essential for eventual recognition and sales.

Q & A

  • What is the main topic of discussion in the video?

    -The main topic of discussion is gallery representation for artists in the fine art photography world.

  • Who is the speaker in the video?

    -The speaker is Martin Osner, an artist photographer, gallery owner, and art curator with over 40 years of professional photography experience.

  • What are some of the challenges Martin faced when transitioning from commercial to fine art photography?

    -Martin faced challenges such as a lack of understanding of the fine art market, difficulty in assembling a suitable portfolio, and a period of six years without selling a single artwork.

  • What advice does Martin give to emerging artists regarding the pricing of their artwork?

    -Martin advises not to undersell one's work, to set a price that is of industry standard and fair to what the artist does, and to consider the gallery's commission, production costs, and marketing when setting a base price.

  • How does Martin suggest approaching galleries for representation?

    -Martin suggests preparing a professional presentation with a specific show concept, an artist statement, biography, and self-portrait. He also recommends having a few framed prints available for viewing upon a gallery's interest.

  • What is the importance of having a strong social media presence according to Martin?

    -A strong social media presence can help build an audience and give the artist a following, which can be beneficial when approaching galleries for representation as it provides the gallery with something to leverage.

  • What is the significance of the story about Andy Warhol being turned down by the Museum of Modern Art?

    -The story illustrates that even the most successful artists face rejection and that perseverance is key. It also highlights that the value of an artwork can significantly increase over time.

  • Why does Martin discourage artists from using a 'shotgun approach' when seeking gallery representation?

    -The 'shotgun approach' of sending out numerous generic emails is not effective because it lacks specificity and professionalism, making it less likely for a gallery to take an interest in the artist's work.

  • What are the potential issues with displaying artwork in a restaurant setting?

    -Potential issues include poor lighting, busy interiors that can cause the artwork to be lost, and the fact that the restaurant benefits from free decoration without necessarily providing effective exposure for the artist.

  • What is the 'Gospel According to Martin'?

    -It is a metaphor for Martin's personal advice and experiences that he shares in the video, based on his years of involvement in the art world.

  • How does Martin suggest artists deal with the fear of engaging with gallery owners or curators?

    -Martin suggests finding a representative who is familiar with the art world to handle the interactions for artists who are uncomfortable with direct engagement.



🎨 Introduction to Fine Art Photography and Gallery Representation

Martin Osner, an experienced artist photographer, gallery owner, and art curator, introduces the topic of gallery representation and getting work seen in public spaces. He shares his extensive background in art and photography, his passion for discussing new artworks, and his commitment to helping emerging artists. He also emphasizes that the advice given is based on his personal experience and that there are multiple ways to approach galleries and exhibit art.


πŸ€” Challenges and Realities of Transitioning to Fine Art Photography

The speaker reflects on his own journey from commercial to fine art photography, highlighting the challenges he faced, including the misconception that his industry contacts would easily support his new venture. He discusses the time it took to assemble a suitable portfolio, the struggle to sell his work, and the importance of perseverance. He also addresses a question from Sally about how to set a price for art, emphasizing the importance of not underselling and considering various factors that influence pricing.


πŸ–ΌοΈ Displaying Art in Public Spaces: Considerations and Strategies

The speaker discusses the pros and cons of displaying artwork in public spaces like restaurants and waiting rooms. He advises on the importance of considering the audience, lighting, and the potential for artwork to be lost among busy interiors. He shares his experience of working with a restaurant that turned into a successful gallery and dining experience, and the importance of creating art that suits the environment. He also mentions the story of Andy Warhol being rejected before becoming a top-selling artist, encouraging artists to stay persistent.


πŸ“¬ Approaching Galleries: Tips for Artists Seeking Representation

The speaker, wearing his curator's hat, addresses the common issue of artists struggling to get responses from galleries. He suggests checking gallery websites for representation policies and tailoring submissions accordingly. He also warns against a 'shotgun' approach and emphasizes the importance of presenting a cohesive body of work with a clear artist statement and biography. The speaker advises against including pricing in the initial proposal, recommending that artists have a few framed prints ready to show if a gallery expresses interest.


🀝 Building Relationships and Audience for Artistic Success

The speaker discusses the importance of building an audience and the role of social media in connecting with potential buyers. He suggests focusing on platforms that cater to the right demographic for art enthusiasts. He also highlights the importance of personal engagement, as people often buy from artists they connect with. The speaker admits his own challenges with social media and how his daughter, Samantha, helps with that aspect. He concludes by encouraging artists to stay creative and engaged with their community.



πŸ’‘Fine Art Photography

Fine Art Photography refers to the creation of images that are expressive and aesthetic in nature, where the photographer's intention is to produce art for its own sake. In the video, Martin Osner discusses his transition from commercial to fine art photography and the challenges he faced in getting his work recognized and exhibited in galleries, which is central to the theme of the video.

πŸ’‘Gallery Representation

Gallery Representation is the process by which an artist's work is showcased and promoted by an art gallery. The artist is 'represented' by the gallery, which may involve selling the artist's work, organizing exhibitions, and liaising with collectors. Martin talks about his experiences with gallery representation and offers advice to emerging artists on how to approach galleries, which is a key concept in the video.


A Portfolio is a collection of an artist's work that is used to demonstrate their skills, style, and artistic vision. In the context of the video, Martin mentions the importance of assembling a suitable portfolio for gallery representation. It is a crucial step for artists seeking to enter the world of fine art photography and is directly related to the main theme of the video.

πŸ’‘Artist Statement

An Artist Statement is a written explanation by an artist about their work, its purpose, and the concepts behind it. Martin emphasizes the importance of including an artist statement when approaching galleries, as it provides context and insight into the artist's intentions and the thematic elements of their work, which is essential for understanding the artist's contribution to the art world.

πŸ’‘Pricing Artwork

Pricing Artwork involves determining the monetary value of a piece of art, which can be influenced by various factors such as the artist's reputation, the cost of production, and the market demand. In the video, Martin addresses a question from Sally about how to set prices for her art, which is a common concern for artists transitioning into the professional art market and is a significant aspect of the video's content.


Exclusivity in the context of art galleries refers to the agreement between an artist and a gallery where the artist agrees not to sell their work through other channels while being represented by the gallery. Martin discusses the importance of exclusivity for galleries, as they are less likely to represent artists who sell their work directly to the public, which is a key consideration for artists seeking gallery representation.

πŸ’‘Public Spaces

Public Spaces, as mentioned in the video, refer to non-gallery locations such as restaurants and waiting rooms where artists might display their work to a broader audience. Martin discusses the pros and cons of exhibiting art in public spaces, which can provide exposure but may not offer the same level of professional recognition as a gallery setting, tying into the video's exploration of alternative展瀺途径 (exhibition avenues).

πŸ’‘Social Media Engagement

Social Media Engagement refers to the interaction and connection an artist builds with their audience through social media platforms. Martin advises artists to build a following on social media, as it can significantly improve their chances of getting gallery representation. This is because a strong online presence can indicate an artist's marketability and appeal to a wider audience, which is valuable to galleries.

πŸ’‘Professional Presentation

A Professional Presentation in the context of the video means how an artist packages and delivers their work to a gallery. Martin stresses the importance of a well-organized and cohesive presentation when applying for gallery representation. This includes having a clear artist statement, biography, and a selection of works that reflect a unified theme or concept, which is essential for making a positive impression on gallery curators.

πŸ’‘Artist Biography

An Artist Biography is a written account of an artist's life, background, and artistic journey. In the video, Martin suggests including a short biography when proposing work to a gallery, as it helps to personalize the artist and provides context for their work. It is an important aspect of an artist's professional presentation and can contribute to the narrative surrounding their artwork.

πŸ’‘Curatorial Approach

A Curatorial Approach refers to the method or strategy a curator uses to select, organize, and present artworks in an exhibition. Martin, as a gallery owner and curator, shares his perspective on how he evaluates artists for representation, which includes considering the thematic cohesion of the work, the artist's professional presentation, and the potential for the artist's work to resonate with the gallery's audience.


Martin Osner, an experienced artist photographer, gallery owner, and art curator, shares insights on gallery representation for artists.

Osner emphasizes the importance of not underselling one's work and setting industry-standard prices for art.

He discusses the challenges faced by emerging artists and offers advice based on his 25 years in fine art photography.

Osner explains the process of securing a spot in a local gallery and the journey to selling the first artwork.

The talk highlights the significance of understanding gallery commission rates when pricing artwork.

He shares a formula for setting the base price of art, including production costs and potential negotiation buffers.

Osner advises artists on how to approach galleries with a professional presentation and a cohesive body of work.

The importance of building an audience and having a strong social media presence is underlined for artists seeking gallery representation.

He discourages the 'shotgun approach' for artists seeking representation, advocating for targeted and specific applications.

Osner stresses the need for artists to be patient and persistent, citing Andy Warhol's initial rejection by the Museum of Modern Art.

The talk provides guidance on how to present artwork to a gallery, including the creation of a portfolio and leaving it for review.

Osner shares his experience of transitioning from commercial to fine art photography and the learning curve involved.

He addresses the question of whether to approach galleries with a walk-in or an appointment, recommending a more structured approach.

The discussion highlights the value of themed artwork displays that resonate with the venue's atmosphere, such as a restaurant or doctor's office.

Osner emphasizes the role of marketing and the importance of setting aside funds for promoting one's artwork.

The talk concludes with advice on engaging with galleries, suggesting that artists should be prepared with a clear presentation and a backstory for their work.

Osner invites artists to subscribe to his channel and join the art photography academy for further discussions and masterclasses.