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Picture Perfect: 4 Types of Art Galleries and How They Operate

Art galleries are the bridge between the artist’s brush (or camera, pencil, chisel, etc.) and the outside world. While museum patrons can’t whip out their checkbook and walk away with the Mona Lisa, art gallery visitors actually can take home any pieces that catch their eye.

But a lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into starting and running an art gallery over time. Before a single exhibit can come to fruition, you’ll need the right plans and protections in place—everything from choosing your professional model to business insurance for art galleries.

First things first, learn more about these four types of art galleries and how they operate.

Commercial Gallery

A commercial gallery is a for-profit business with a transactional model: collectors buy pieces of artwork on display so both the gallery and the artist get a cut of the revenue. These spaces typically curate selective shows based on what’s likely to sell (by extension boosting their reputation in the art world). Some commercial galleries are public, meaning anyone can walk in off the street and purchase an artwork if they have the funds. Others are private, meaning collectors must be members to gain access to the art for purchase.

It’s important to note that some for-profit galleries take years to get off the ground, if they ever do. For example, while it’s typical for galleries to take a commission as high as 50 percent of a sale price, one Chicago gallery takes zero percent because it’s not yet financially feasible. The gallery has been operating since 2010.

Artist-Run Initiative

Artist-run initiatives, also known as co-operatives, involve a group of artists coming together to split the costs and responsibilities of running a gallery. These outlets typically use a rotational schedule, meaning that artists may get a chance once every few months or years to show their creations. These galleries typically grant artists more control over displays, pricing and distribution. Since there’s technically no middleman, artists may get a higher cut of the profits. But for every dollar earned, there’s a significant amount of elbow grease (and up-front investment) that goes into splitting a gallery between a group.

Vanity Gallery

Vanity galleries charge artists a fee to show their work, thus deriving their primary income from this “rental” fee rather than commissions on pieces. These galleries may charge for their entire space for a period of time, or offer artists a wall for a set price for a period of time. While it’s an avenue for new artists to get their name out into the world, vanity galleries are rarely (if ever) as reputable as commercial galleries or co-ops.

Non-Profit Gallery

Just like the business world is full of for-profit and non-profit organizations, so is the art world. Non-profits receive their funding from grants and donations, and the commissions are typically much lower than you’d find in the commercial world. The upside? These organizations can accept artists based on sheer merit rather than clout.

What do all these art galleries have in common? Business insurance for an art gallery is a must to keep the artwork, structure and overall finances safe. Get started with a commercial quote from CoverHound today!

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Insurance shopping simplified

Review personalized quotes, select coverages, and buy online - Everything insurance, all-in-one-place.

Insurance shopping simplified

Review personalized quotes, select coverages, and buy online - Everything insurance, all-in-one-place.
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