Episode 96 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Presenting to Museums

Presenting to Museums

For museums, which are usually not for profit, what you are looking for is two things. One, you want to know who the curators are there. You want to know their names and what they have done in the past. It should be easy enough to find their names by looking at the museum’s website. If that is difficult, go to the museum and ask who the curators are for contemporary work. The other thing you would like to know from a museum is if they have a policy for looking at the work of new artists. You can write them a letter and simply ask that. Now let’s go to the next step of this situation. You have a list of the museum’s curators, and you have a sense of the shows they have, and perhaps they do look at the work of artists. If they have a policy of looking at work, simply follow their rules. Usually they ask for a letter, images, and a biography of yourself. Keep in mind that most museums that have policies of looking at artists’ work are usually not exhibiting those artists right away.

What they do is look at your work so that they can understand more about what is going on in contemporary art. Also, even if they like your work very much, they will want to see more. Normally you will get a letter back from the museum stating something like, “Thank you, please send us an update in six months.” The reason they are saying that is so they can see how your work evolves, and also to see if you are professional enough to keep sending them work on a regular basis. The next step with museums, which you can do at any time in your career, is to target a specific curator. In my experience, it is easiest and best not to target the top curator.

Look for a new curator at a museum, someone who is probably young and handles something that might not even apply to you, like booking performances or music. Write to that curator directly and ask him or her if you could meet with them to talk about a project that you would like their feedback on. I always ask if I can meet the curator at the museum café at lunchtime for about fifteen minutes. Usually that is hard to say no to. It is also helpful if you Google the curator and find out something about their past so you can make a reference to it in a letter showing that you know who they are! The letter might look something like this:

Dear [Curator’s name here],

I just read your text on the paintings of [artist’s name here; find this by researching on the web], and I thought you did a great job at articulating the importance and subtlety of her work.

I am writing to you because I would like to have a brief meeting with you at the museum café to tell you about a project I am involved with. It would take about fifteen minutes and will be easy. I value your words and the way you approach your writing and hope you can have this brief meeting with me to hear about an idea that I would like your advice on.

Is it possible to meet on [date] at [time] in the café? Sincerely,


To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.


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