You've hopped around galleries during First Friday and heard your Art History friends mention the term, but you're not sure what a gallery *actually* does. Don't worry, we've got you covered.
WTF's a gallery?
Similar to how singers are signed to a record label, professional fine artists are usually represented by a gallery, or multiple galleries in different regional markets. The mission of the gallery is to support, promote and grow the career of the artists they represent. They typically do so by organizing exhibitions, attending art fairs, meeting with collectors and museum collections, pitching stories to publications and sharing the art on online platforms, all with the ultimate goal of selling the artworks and helping the artist succeed.
What's the price tag?
Galleries usually have a monthly turnaround of new exhibitions that are free of charge. You can walk in, appreciate the art and walk out, and it’s up to you whether to make eye contact with the receptionists or not. Usually, you won’t see a price tag next to a work of art, and that’s mostly because the price is always negotiable. There could also be a wait list of clients wanting a piece of art. Even if you have the money, you have to wait sometimes or yield the opportunity to someone who has maintained a strong relationship with the gallery.
Galleries mainly earn their revenue through the artworks they sell, and the costs of running a gallery could include rental and construction fees, exhibition planning fees, application and booth fees for attending major art fairs, subscription fees to online platforms, salaries and so on.
Which ones should I put on my bucket list?
Three of the most famous and important galleries founded in the US are Gagosian, Pace and David Zwirner. They represent some of the most art historically significant and/or profitable artists in the world, and they have locations internationally. They would organize solo or group shows that are thematically and thoughtfully curated and come with scholarly catalogues.
Locally, the Locks Gallery next to Washington Square is well–established in the art world that represents an international group of critically respected contemporary artists. During the first Friday of each month, usually from 6 to 10 p.m., you can take SEPTA down to 2nd Street Station and wander across Market, Arch and 3rd Streets to enjoy free gallery opening receptions.