What To Do If Your Artwork is Turned Down by a Gallery, Show or Shop Owner

It can be very discouraging when you want your work to appear in a show and it is turned down by those who decide what work will be entered.

This upset can cause you to stall out or slow down when it comes time to create new artwork. When you start focusing on getting pieces sold or meeting people who will show your work, your time and energy is separated from creating new and better artwork.

How to Handle Being Turned Down

Special care is required to control your emotions when your art is not picked for a show or gallery. It’s human nature to feel slighted, even cheated. You know your work is good and you feel that you deserve to be in that show or gallery.

Gallery owners on bench making decisions
Gallery Owners Making Decisions

Not being chosen does not mean your work is inferior. Every show, gallery or shop has limited space. Someone had to make a decision between your work and someone else’s. Your work could be excellent but the other person’s work matched the theme of the show more closely. In a different situation, where your pieces were in closer harmony with the gallery owner’s needs, your work would have been chosen.

What’s more, the gallery or shop owner knows what his customers like by what they have purchased in the past. In one area of town, your work might be exactly what the owner is looking for. In another part of town, a shop owner is aware that his customers want something quite different.

Sometimes it comes down to a numbers game. You may find over time that you must show your work to five people before one will accept it for a show. That number could be three or seven. The point is, nobody’s work is entered into every show one hundred percent of the time.

Take Care Not to Burn Bridges in the Art World

How you react when your artwork is turned down is very important. The very best thing to do is to thank the person who took the time to look at it and move on politely. Leave the situation on a positive note. Everything changes. The time may come when either your current work will be entered or your work will change to fit the situation. Since this is possible, you want to maintain the very best rapport with the shop or gallery owner.

Shaking Hands
Leaving on n Good Note

You could end the meeting by giving the shop owner your business card, saying, “Thank you so much for your time and here’s my card in case your needs change in the future.”

Think of this as an interview with a company you’d like to work for. There are no openings at this time that fit your qualifications but there might be later on. Keep that door open and don’t burn any bridges – no matter how badly you feel or even how badly you were treated.

Matching Up Your Artwork

So if your artwork is not chosen to be displayed in a gallery, show or shop, remember that there are other places where your work will be exactly what someone is looking for. Your job is to continue to introduce your artwork to gallery and shop owners until you find the place where your work is a good match.

Artist creating a large painting
Artist Creating Painting for the Gallery

There is a robust controversy among artists and writers regarding whether or not to change your work to make it right for the gallery so that your work will be accepted next time.

Tread lightly into these waters. Perhaps the right way is to stay true to your own voice, your own style and your own preferred subject matter. Or perhaps producing work that is trending that year is what you should be doing. This is a tough choice. Both could be right.

Many professional artists say that staying on their own course worked out best for them. But at the same time, a person must eat. So decide for yourself which is the right thing for you at a particular point in time.

This is the nature of the art world. But when you think about it, the same thing happens to writers, actors and a host of other professionals. Each one has to present their work numerous times before someone says, “That fits my needs. It’s right for this particular show (or publisher).”

Continue Creating Good Artwork
Artist at work at her easel
Artist Hard At Work

The best course of action is to put the experience behind you and focus on your next work of art. Keep on keeping on, as they say. The artist’s journey is a lifelong one. If you keep creating and presenting your work, opportunities will open up.

Share Your Experiences Showing Your Artwork

Let us know in the comment section below about your experience presenting your artwork to gallery, show or shop owners. If your work wasn’t accepted, how did you handle it? What would you do differently next time? Did you have trouble creating new artwork after that experience?

If you are a Skillful Artists Member, you can submit an article, video or audio about your experiences. Include some images of your artwork. We’d love to hear about it.