So you’ve finally honed your artistic identity, built up your portfolio and committed to making it as an artist. Now for the hard bit: breaking into the art scene while still at university. Stepping outside of that student bubble into the notoriously hard-to-crack art world is a daunting prospect, but you’re more prepared than you think. Whether you’re looking to make new connections, start exhibiting your work, or even sell your first piece, here are some tips on getting noticed as an art student. 

Form a relationship with hand-selected galleries

There’s an art to convincing a gallery to exhibit your work, and it definitely doesn’t involve blanket sending your portfolio out to every exhibition space in town. Rather than demonstrating your confidence, it’s likely to highlight your inexperience and lead to that precious portfolio being sent straight to the bin. Instead, Nick Kaplony, the senior programme co-ordinator of Artquest, urges students to try to understand the work the gallery wants to show and how they like to be approached.

Like a long courtship, relationship-building is a matter of subtly building trust between yourself and the gallery. Kaplony suggests calling them up and asking whether they’d like to be added to your mailing list, then sending them invitations to your shows by email. That way, when they decide to put on their own show for young artists, they’ll remember your name. 

Create group exhibitions

Don’t feel like you have to go it alone to prove yourself as an artist. Make the most of being surrounded by so many fellow art students and put on group shows. Kate Rowland, an illustrator from the collective After School Club explains the benefits of being part of a collective: “It allows us to utilise each other’s skills, therefore we have more resources to help one another. It’s kind of like a creative support system. And lots of fun.” 

Group exhibitions also lets you capitalise on interest in each individual, helping to build a bigger audience. The stronger your tribe, the more opportunities for contacts and support further down the line. 

Stay active on social media 

In the social age, emerging artists can sink or swim depending on the clout of their social media. With more than 80 per cent of young art lovers buying art online last year, your website and Instagram have never been so important. 

In many ways, the explosion of social media has made art more democratic, giving artists the chance to cut out the middle man and go straight to their buyers. But it’s also made the landscape far more crowded. To ensure your work gets seen, keep to a consistent posting schedule, join in with art hashtags (#inktober is a great one), and join in with conversations. 

Build your network 

There have never been so many ways to connect with fellow art students, whether in-person or online. Take The Net Gallery. With 3D technology at its heart, it gives emerging artists a platform to share their work, explore immersive 3D exhibitions and spaces, and learn from others. You can sign up for free here. 

There’s no right way to break into the art world. Instead, it’s a case of building a portfolio of experience, connections and, of course, your own brand of artwork. Keep at it, and by the time you’ve packed up your final end-of-year exhibition, you’ll be ready to face the professional art world head-on. 

By Alice Mulhearn-Williams

Featured image by The Net Gallery featuring works by Selby Hurst Inglefield –