Brief Introduction to Art Galleries

An art gallery is generally a sombre setting with connoisseurs of art moving around in measured steps and talking in hushed tones. But behind the scenes is a hyper active world of art dealers, artists, buyers and sellers of art works all vying to get a slice of the art market. It is usually a place to display all forms of visual art ranging from paintings to sculpture, drawings, collages, photographs and everything related to decorative arts.

There are basically two types of art galleries. The first is a public art gallery usually funded by the Government of the country and run on a no-profit basis. Selected works of art are displayed here. The other is private art gallery that alludes to a commercial venture primarily engaged in buying and selling art works. Both types can be either housed in a permanent structure or as travelling art galleries or a mix of both. Travelling galleries are instrumental in taking art away from the cities to remote locations and help to spread awareness of major art and paintings. However, in the modern digital environment, this end is also achieved when experts in art post photos of major works of art on their Instagram profiles.

Art galleries can be categorised as follows –

  • Museum galleries – Art galleries are housed in standalone buildings but a room or area in a museum that displays a particular type of art is also often referred to as an art gallery. For instance, a museum housing different artefacts might also have a room dedicated exclusively to ancient Chinese art. This room will by and large be referred to as the Chinese Gallery even though it forms part of a museum.
  • Vanity galleries – This is an art gallery that charges fees from artists to display their works. It is a great platform for rising and budding artists to catch the attention of art dealers and buyers of art. It is not a one man show but has works of many artists running simultaneously. However, these galleries display a specific art work or painting for a limited period only usually three months. Therefore to stay in the limelight an artist has to be a prolific painter so that his/her new work can be put up once the old one is taken down. Expenses for framing too have to be borne by the artist.
  • Contemporary art gallery – This is typically privately owned and run for profit and is generally clustered in major towns and cities. Contemporary art galleries charge a fee for entry though some are accessible for free. The profit of such a gallery is mainly had from the commission payable by an artist after a sale of an art work. This range anywhere from 25% to 50%. However, those that are non-profit making in nature are funded by philanthropists and the rich who are interested in encouraging young artists to make a name for themselves. These are also the people who take to social media sites and Pinterest to spread images of art works they think are worth bringing to the knowledge of the common people.

Owners of contemporary art galleries also have teams who are experts in different fields to run the galleries efficiently. It includes renowned artists, administrators and even well known HR professionals like Shannon Pigram to devise specific training programmes.

  • University museums and galleries – These are art galleries that are maintained and developed by various Universities, schools and colleges and communities. This concept goes back to Western Europe where Universities were the fountainheads of learning in various faculties including art. Although when compared to conventional art galleries their numbers are far less, these have been very successful in nurturing and promoting talent from the grass root levels up. One of the oldest in this field is the University of Tartu Art Museum in Estonia.

Art galleries and museums have a stellar role to play in spreading awareness of art both for rising artists as well as established ones.

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