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What is an art gallery Find out what its function is

The art gallery is a reference point for artists, collectors and for the different players of the art world.

According to the The Art Market 2018 report curated by Clare McAndrew for Art Basel and UBS, there are 296,540 galleries at global level that can be divided by taking into account the type of commercialised art:

  • Contemporary Art (artists born after 1960)
  • Post-war Art (artists born after 1910)
  • Modern Art (artists born between 1875 and 1910)
  • 19th-Century Art (artists born between 1821 and 1874)
  • Old Masters (artists born before 1821)

    Art galleries, chosen by 66% of international collectors as the preferred purchasing channel, are active between the primary and secondary markets.

The primary market concerns the first sale of the work of an artist – usually living – and the first buyer; the secondary market is linked to works already present on the market they have been already sold at least once in a gallery or auction house,  and its artistic value is given for acknowledged.

Among the main tasks of an art gallery, where gallerist and his staff work, we can identify:

  • Selection of artists, according to their own mission, following criteria such as geographical (local / national / international), economic (low price range, medium, high or very high), medium (painting, sculpture, photography, video art, new media etc etc …) or even artistic research
  • Support, enhancement and positioning on the market for their artists, through exhibitions, events and art fairs, in order to promote them to collectors, public or private institutions and curators
  • Support for their collectors and help for those who are ready to start their art collection, thanks to the precise and timely knowledge of the national and international artistic scene, within which the artists to be supported are selected
  • Guarantee of quality and provenance of the artworks presented within their own space, delivering, after the purchase, the certificate of authenticity as required by law from Article 64 of the “Code of Cultural Heritage and Landscape” at Italian level ( Legislative Decree 42 of 22 January 2004)

Starting from a first classification provided by Donald Thompson in the book “The $ 12 million shark“, the art galleries are divided into four main types:

  • Brand Galleries: they take care of the most popular artists of the moment, the so-called blue chips. They benefit from contacts with the best collectors, museum institutions and their directors, and the most influential curators. They take part in the best art fairs in the world and are able to support the market of their artists in multiple places, having several locations in several countries. As an example we can mention Gagosian, White Cube or Hauser & Wirth
  • Traditional galleries: they operate by selecting artists who are establishing themselves along with other mid-career artists, promoting them to the various players in the art world. They have stable links with their collectors and geographic positioning near brand galleries; they also participate in a selected list of art fairs
  • Commercial galleries: they are incubators of rising or established artists who will afterwords become part of a “traditional gallery”. They work mainly on the territory in which they are geographically positioned, without neglecting the online art market
  • Shop galleries: spaces that work with artists who are not yet established, who if required rent the gallery to show off their work, which falls within the first purchase by Art Lovers or occasional collectors

There is also another type of Research Galleries, which are distinguished by the choice of artists and mediums whose market is still developing and can not therefore be defined as stable, such as that linked to Digital Art.

The plurality of the offer of art galleries in the world, allows artists, collectors and operators of the sector to identify, according to multiple criteria, the ideal gallery for their needs.

And you, are you ready to select your art gallery?

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