Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D             [ Back ]    [ Home  [ Next

What is a "Gallery"?

There are several different types of galleries.  Many are also frame and poster shops, while others are co-op or cooperative type of galleries which means that there is a couple or group of people who have united to share the costs of running a business (gallery) that will display their work; this display may be in the form of a permanent exhibition or a one-artist or multi-artist show at name galleries, for example).

Then there are galleries that are owned by expert business people who put together, with the help of artists and designers, art displays for sale that look like museum quality work, where high end art is sold to collectors and non-collectors, or those who are just beginning to collect.  Art work ranges from $1000.00 to over a quarter of a million dollars, though there are fine originals by local artists and reproductions by masters that cost under $1,000.00. 

This kind of store is designed to look and feel like a metropolitan gallery, with its marble and lighted pedestals on which to display art work, mirrored walls to reflect all angles of the art, and finely tuned lighting to properly highlight the various artforms.  Just as one would find in a true museum, this type of gallery displays professionally printed information cards on each of the exhibits, and the staff is well trained in art and equipped to educate the public about its artists.  Seminars, tours, workshops, and other teaching methods, are offered to the general public to better educate them about art while providing an enjoyable outlet.  Various purchasing plans are also available to help the first-time collects acquire their initial piece of art.  Such galleries are also staffed by individuals trained and educated in the arts, such as the owner who may or may not always be present in the gallery, the director who runs the day-to-day operations and sets policy, markets the store, serves as the community relations specialists, directs staff, acquires the art work, and handles the budget and all major aspects.  The assistant director of the gallery may also be a design specialist who is knowledgeable in how to properly display the art work.  Other positions might include fine arts consultants, archivists, art apprentices or interns, and preparators.              Galleries may be large or small, new or old, but in either case, their integrity is foremost in the business.  People who buy art for its aesthetic and/or investment value want to be reassured that they're dealing with a reputable company that stands behind its word and each of its products.

Galleries may also be established as profit-making or nonprofit businesses.  Nonprofit galleries often seek private funding or grants from the government, while profit-making businesses have to rely strictly on sales in order to remain in existence.  Both types of galleries frequently take on "consignment" work by artists.  This means that the gallery will gamble on the artist's talent to sell the piece in exchange for a split profit which may range anywhere from 30-70 (in favor of the artist) to 50-50.  By doing this, the gallery offers the artist "hanging space" which is often at a premium in most art establishments, as well as exposure, and income.  Most galleries are very selective about which artists they'll consign.

All galleries welcome the general public.  Not only is it an educational experience to learn about the different artists and artforms, but it's also fun to ooh and aah over another's sense of creativity.  This is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with a friend or loved one. 

Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D. 
Former executive director of a high end gallery..

Copyright 2002 Nan Hayes