Galleries come in all ages, shapes, and sizes too. Art Basel and UBS’s Art Market | 2017 report estimated there were roughly 296,000 dealers and gallery businesses in 2016. Just under 40% of them had annual sales of less than $500,000, while a similar share had sales totaling between $1 million and $10 million. Nearly two-thirds of all galleries employed five or fewer people, and only 4% had 20 or more employees.
Regardless of size, at the core of a gallery’s identity is its “program.” The term generally refers to the roster of artists a gallery represents, but can also describe a conceptual framework or area of focus that guides that roster, as well as other activities such as collaborations with other galleries, performances, and lectures, or fair appearances. Most will stress that their primary role is to facilitate their artists’ production of great work, in any way they can.
The biggest advantage of an artist being represented by an established gallery has over an independent artist is access to a broad and loyal clientele. As an independent artist, it may take you years to build your loyal clientele and to gain the recognition that your work deserves, whereas an established gallery already comes with an established collector’s list. Gallery directors and staff will know exactly who will fall in love with your abstracts, portraits, or landscape photography and they make sure that these people get a chance to look at your work. These relationships are built over years and collectors do become incredibly loyal to their galleries and people who run them, developing deep, trusting friendships.
Many times emerging collectors will contact the gallery directly to discuss their aesthetic needs. It’s much easier for a busy CEO to schedule a personal meeting with an art expert at the gallery than spend hours researching artists online. So, whether they’re budding art investors searching for the new ‘star’, a couple looking to decorate their newly-remodeled condo, or a husband seeking a perfect anniversary present, serious buyers will always turn to established galleries for advice on emerging artists and quality, original art.