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

Martin Osner
18 Jul 202330:14

TLDRIn this informative talk, Martin Osner, a seasoned artist photographer, gallery owner, and art curator, shares his insights on the intricacies of gallery representation for fine art photographers. With over 25 years of experience in the field, Osner discusses the challenges faced by emerging artists, emphasizing the importance of not underselling one's work and setting industry-standard prices. He provides a detailed formula for pricing art, considering gallery commissions and production costs. Osner also addresses the dilemma of displaying artwork in non-traditional spaces like restaurants and waiting rooms, highlighting the need for strategic placement and thematic coherence. Furthermore, he offers advice on approaching galleries with a professional portfolio, including an artist statement and biography. The talk concludes with the significance of building an audience and social media presence to increase the chances of gallery representation. Osner's candid anecdotes and practical tips provide a valuable guide for aspiring photo artists looking to exhibit their work in public spaces.


  • 🎨 **Value Your Work**: Never undersell your art. Set prices that reflect industry standards and your worth as an artist.
  • πŸ“ˆ **Price Setting Formula**: Consider the gallery's commission, production costs, negotiation buffer, unexpected costs, and marketing when setting your art's price.
  • 🀝 **Gallery Representation**: Approach galleries with a professional portfolio and a clear, cohesive body of work that aligns with the gallery's focus.
  • πŸ’‘ **Exhibition Opportunities**: Even if galleries don't respond, consider non-traditional exhibition spaces like restaurants or waiting rooms, but ensure they provide proper lighting and context for your work.
  • πŸ’Œ **Engage with the Audience**: Build a following and engage with your audience on social media platforms that cater to art enthusiasts.
  • πŸ“‚ **Research Galleries**: Understand a gallery's preferences before approaching them to ensure your work is a good fit for their clientele and exhibitions.
  • πŸ“§ **Email Communication**: If emails to galleries are not answered, it may be due to logistics, incompatible work style, or a lack of specificity in your inquiry.
  • πŸ–ΌοΈ **Professional Presentation**: A well-prepared proposal with an artist statement, biography, and a cohesive collection increases your chances of being represented.
  • πŸ“š **Documentation**: Provide a portfolio that includes a title and description for each artwork, and be prepared with framed prints for immediate viewing if a gallery expresses interest.
  • πŸ€– **Representation Assistance**: If you're uncomfortable with self-promotion, consider finding a representative who can effectively communicate your work to galleries.
  • πŸš€ **Persistence is Key**: Success takes time. Even renowned artists faced rejections; continue to refine your craft and pursue opportunities.

Q & A

  • What is the main focus of Martin Osner's discussion?

    -Martin Osner's discussion is focused on the topic of gallery representation for artists, specifically within the realm of fine art photography. He shares his experiences and insights on how artists can get their work seen in public spaces and navigate the challenges of emerging in the art world.

  • What is Martin Osner's background in the art world?

    -Martin Osner is an artist photographer, gallery owner, and an art curator with over 25 years of involvement in art and fan art photography and more than 40 years of professional photography experience.

  • Why did Martin Osner decide to share his experiences with others?

    -Martin Osner wants to give back some of the joy that photography and fan art photography has given him over the years. He also aims to help others by sharing his experiences to possibly speed up their progress in the art world.

  • What is the importance of setting the right price for art?

    -Setting the right price for art is crucial as it reflects the artist's worth and the industry standards. It is also important for the artist's long-term career as it is easier to lower the price than to increase it later on.

  • What is the general advice for approaching galleries?

    -The advice includes understanding the gallery's status, the type of patrons they attract, and the work they exhibit. It's also recommended to present a professional portfolio with a specific theme, an artist statement, and biography, and to have a few framed prints ready for viewing.

  • Why is it not advisable to hang artwork in public spaces like restaurants without careful consideration?

    -Hanging artwork in public spaces without a strategic approach can lead to the work not being properly showcased due to factors like poor lighting and busy interiors. It's also important to ensure there is a clear path for potential buyers to inquire and purchase the artwork.

  • What are the challenges faced by emerging artists when trying to get their work into galleries?

    -Challenges include the gallery's high volume of representation requests, the artist's work not aligning with the gallery's genre or style, and the lack of a structured approach in the artist's submission.

  • Why is it suggested not to include pricing in the initial proposal to a gallery?

    -Pricing can be a sensitive topic and may vary based on the gallery's policies and the artist's negotiation. It is better to discuss pricing after the gallery has shown interest in the artist's work.

  • What role does social media play in an artist's career?

    -Social media plays a significant role in building an audience and creating a following for an artist's work. A strong online presence can increase an artist's chances of getting representation or a show at a gallery.

  • What is the significance of having a professional presentation when approaching a gallery?

    -A professional presentation demonstrates the artist's focus and professionalism, making it easier for the gallery to consider their work for representation or a show. It also helps the gallery to see the artist's commitment and preparedness.

  • Why is it important for artists to understand the gallery's representation policy?

    -Understanding the gallery's representation policy increases the artist's chances of getting a response. It shows that the artist has done their research and respects the gallery's process, making their application more likely to be considered.



🎨 Introduction to Fine Art Photography and Gallery Representation

Martin Osner, an experienced artist photographer, gallery owner, and art curator, welcomes viewers to a discussion on gallery representation and public exhibition opportunities for fine art photographers. With a background spanning 25 years in fan art and over 40 years in professional photography, Osner shares his insights and personal experiences. He emphasizes the importance of sharing knowledge to assist emerging artists and acknowledges the challenges faced by those entering the field. His advice is based on his own journey and the lessons he learned, aiming to help others avoid the pitfalls he encountered. Osner also highlights the shift to online platforms for sharing knowledge due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has proven beneficial for his teaching and public talks.


πŸ€” The Challenges of Transitioning to Fine Art Photography

Osner candidly discusses his own transition from commercial to fine art photography, revealing the difficulties he faced despite his industry contacts. He describes the process of building a suitable portfolio, the mismatch between his work and the expectations of art galleries, and the frustration of not selling any artwork for six years. His breakthrough came when a local gallery in Johannesburg agreed to display a few of his pieces, leading to his first major exhibition at another gallery. This experience underscored the importance of perseverance and the value of professional representation in the art world.


πŸ’° Pricing Artwork for Galleries and Public Spaces

Addressing a common concern among artists, Osner provides guidance on setting prices for artwork. He emphasizes the importance of not underselling one's work and offers a formula to calculate a fair price, taking into account gallery commissions, production costs, and potential negotiation buffers. He also advises artists to consider future value when setting prices, as it's easier to lower prices than to raise them. Osner shares his experience with an artist who initially priced too low and the time it took to adjust the pricing appropriately. He also touches on the option of displaying work in non-traditional venues like restaurants and doctors' offices, but cautions that these spaces may not always be ideal for showcasing art due to factors like lighting and audience.


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

Osner discusses the decision to display artwork in public spaces like restaurants and doctor's offices, highlighting the need for careful consideration of the venue's audience, lighting, and decor. He shares a successful case where a restaurant was used as a gallery, with careful planning around lighting, pricing, and theming of the artwork. Osner also recounts a time when themed artwork in a doctor's office generated interest, suggesting that the context and presentation of the art are crucial. He encourages artists to be persistent, citing the example of Andy Warhol, who was initially rejected but later became a top-selling artist.


πŸ“§ Approaching Galleries for Representation

Osner provides advice on how to approach galleries for representation, addressing common concerns about the application process. He explains that popular galleries receive many requests and may not respond due to logistics, incompatible styles, or generic applications. He recommends researching galleries thoroughly and presenting a focused proposal with a cohesive collection, including an artist statement and biography. Osner advises against unsolicited walk-ins and suggests leaving a portfolio with the gallery for review. He also emphasizes the importance of professionalism and a well-prepared presentation to increase the chances of being represented.


🀝 Building an Artist's Brand and Engaging with Galleries

In the final paragraph, Osner discusses the importance of building an audience and brand as an artist. He suggests focusing on social media channels appropriate for the target audience and creating a strong following, which can be beneficial when approaching galleries. Osner also addresses the concerns of artists who may be uncomfortable with self-promotion, suggesting they find a representative. He concludes by encouraging viewers to subscribe for more content, register on the art photography academy, and engage with the community for discussions and masterclasses. Osner reminds artists to stay creative, as it is beneficial for the soul, and looks forward to future interactions.



πŸ’‘Fine Art Photography

Fine Art Photography refers to a genre of photography that is created with artistic expression as its primary goal, rather than commercial or technical considerations. In the video, Martin Osner discusses his 25 years of involvement in the world of fine art photography, emphasizing its importance in the context of gallery representation and public exhibition.

πŸ’‘Gallery Representation

Gallery Representation is the process by which an artist's work is promoted, marketed, and sold by an art gallery. Martin Osner shares his insights on how artists can get their work seen in public spaces and how to approach galleries for representation, which is crucial for emerging artists looking to showcase their work professionally.

πŸ’‘Artist's Portfolio

An Artist's Portfolio is a collection of an artist's work that represents their style, skills, and artistic vision. It is essential when approaching galleries for representation. Martin mentions the challenge of assembling a suitable portfolio, highlighting its importance in the process of being recognized in the fine art world.

πŸ’‘Pricing Artwork

Pricing Artwork involves determining the monetary value of an artist's work. It is a complex process that involves considering the artist's reputation, the cost of production, and the market demand. In the video, Martin provides a detailed formula for setting prices that take into account gallery commissions, production costs, and marketing expenses.


An Exhibition is an event where art pieces are displayed to the public. It is a significant step for artists to gain exposure. Martin talks about his first exhibition and how it was a breakthrough moment for his career, even though it did not yield significant sales initially.

πŸ’‘Art Curator

An Art Curator is a professional who is responsible for the selection, organization, and often the installation of works of art in an exhibition. Martin Osner, as an art curator, shares his perspective on how he selects artwork for exhibitions, which is valuable information for artists seeking gallery representation.

πŸ’‘Art Academy

An Art Academy is an educational institution that provides training in the visual arts. Martin mentions the formation of an art photography academy, which is a platform for artists to learn, engage, and gain access to discussions and masterclasses, emphasizing the importance of continuous learning and community in the art world.

πŸ’‘Public Spaces for Art

Public Spaces for Art refers to non-traditional venues like restaurants and waiting rooms where artists can display their work. Martin discusses the pros and cons of showing art in such spaces, cautioning that artists should be mindful of the audience, lighting, and the overall context in which their work is presented.

πŸ’‘Artist's Statement

An Artist's Statement is a written explanation by an artist about their work, the ideas behind it, and the methods used to create it. It is a crucial part of an artist's professional presentation. Martin stresses the importance of an artist's statement in providing context and understanding to the artwork, which is essential for gallery representation.

πŸ’‘Social Media Engagement

Social Media Engagement refers to the interaction and connection an artist builds with their audience on social media platforms. Martin advises artists to build a following on social media, which can significantly improve their chances of getting gallery representation by demonstrating public interest and support for their work.

πŸ’‘Professional Presentation

Professional Presentation involves the manner in which an artist's work is displayed and introduced to a gallery or the public. Martin emphasizes that a well-prepared and cohesive presentation can greatly increase an artist's chances of being represented by a gallery, as it shows the artist's professionalism and preparedness.


Martin Osner, an artist photographer, gallery owner, and art curator with over 40 years of experience, shares insights on getting started as a photo artist and gallery representation.

Osner emphasizes the importance of not underselling your work and setting prices that reflect industry standards and your worth.

He discusses the challenges faced by emerging artists and offers advice based on his personal experiences in the art world.

Osner explains the process of setting a price for artwork, including considering gallery commissions and production costs.

He shares his journey of transitioning from commercial to fine art photography and the initial struggles of selling his work.

The importance of persistence and patience in the art world is highlighted through Osner's personal anecdotes and the story of Andy Warhol's early rejections.

Osner advises on how to approach galleries with a professional presentation and the potential benefits of having an online presence and following.

He suggests creating a cohesive collection for gallery representation, complete with an artist statement and biography.

The presenter discusses the common pitfalls artists face when trying to get their work shown in public spaces like restaurants and waiting rooms.

Osner provides a formula for pricing artwork that includes doubling the desired net amount and adding production costs, negotiation buffer, and marketing expenses.

He stresses the value of an artist's personal story and connection with their audience in building a successful career in art.

The talk addresses the question of whether to walk into a gallery unannounced or to make an appointment, advocating for a professional and respectful approach.

Osner shares tips on how to create an effective portfolio for a gallery, including the number of artworks and the importance of presentation.

He highlights the significance of having a themed collection that aligns with the gallery's aesthetic and clientele.

The presenter encourages artists to continue pursuing gallery representation despite initial rejections or difficulties.

Osner offers advice for artists who are uncomfortable with self-promotion, suggesting they find a representative to manage interactions with galleries.

The importance of building an audience and engaging with potential buyers on social media is discussed as a strategy to increase an artist's chances of gallery representation.

The talk concludes with an invitation to subscribe to Osner's channel and to join the art photography academy for further learning and community engagement.