How to start an art gallery business

Updated April 17, 2017

If you have an interest in art and want to start a business, starting an art gallery is something to consider. However, operating a successful art gallery requires preparation and hard work.

As an art gallery owner, you will present the work of artists, such as sculptors, painters, jewellery designers, weavers, photographers and more to the public. You will also give artists the opportunity to display and sell their work and allow people to appreciate and buy art.

Determine what kind of gallery you want to open. Choose from commercial, non-profit or artist-owned. With a commercial gallery, the sales generated represent the main method of income. The purpose of a non-profit gallery is to provide a service to the community, not make money. An artist-owned gallery is owned and run by one or more artists.

Discover the requirements needed and your business type. After deciding the type of gallery you want to open, go to your state's division of corporations website and register your business. You'll also need to choose an entity for your business: non-profit corporation, sole proprietorship, partnership, S corporation, corporation, limited liability corporation or limited liability partnership. Each of these have benefits and drawbacks regarding liability and taxes.

You'll also need to obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. Additional licenses and insurance you may need to acquire dependson your county, city and state regulations.

Find a location. Look in your city and surrounding areas or contact a real estate agent to help you find a great location. A factor in choosing is if the people in a particular area are interested in the arts and if they would actually frequent an art gallery. If individuals in your city (or surrounding areas) aren't particularly interested in art, your business probably won't do well. Additionally, you need to know your target market, where they live and try to place the art gallery near that location.

Select your gallery's theme. Choose what theme and type of artwork to you want to feature. You could choose from fine art, folk art (like quilts and other crafts), particular art periods (impressionism, art deco, retro), artisan art, pop art, antique art or certain mediums such as paintings, pottery or sculptures. Although you may choose to have a variety of art in your gallery, specialising in a particular area will help you gain more business.

Decide on the type of art you want to display and sell and the artists you want to work with. One way to do this is by visiting galleries that display the kind of artwork in which you're interested. Additionally, go out into your community and surrounding areas to find artists who create work you want to show.

Choose the number of artists you want to accept; consider your gallery's size when deciding this. Select the paintings and pieces you think will sell in your gallery. Start out small and as your art gallery becomes more popular, it will continue to grow.

Market your gallery. When you first open your art gallery, host a grand opening, serve refreshments and be sure there is great art on display.

To have a successful opening, deliver press releases and invitations about a month in advance and network with as many people as possible. If it's in your budget, advertise through newspaper or radio ads. Additionally, you can create a website where you provide information about the gallery and any special events.

Things You'll Need

  • Business license
  • Insurance
  • Employee Identification Number
  • Location
  • Artwork
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About the Author

Jamie Fleming is a freelance writer based in Georgia. She has a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication and has five years of writing experience. Her work has appeared in publications like "The Savvy Gal" and "Young Money." She is also a writer for Chic Star Entertainment and Mahogany Butterfly.