Looking for a night out at an art exhibit or interested in browsing a gallery in search of a masterpiece for your own collection? While most cities have several art galleries to choose from, finding the best one for your needs can be trickier than simply searching for the closest “art galleries near me.” This article will give you insights on some of the best cities for art lovers as well as an overview of the art gallery business and how to get the best value for your money when purchasing fine art.
Top 10 Cities for Art Lovers in the US
Below is a list of the top 10 U.S. cities to view, experience and buy fine art based on the total number of art-related businesses in each city according to Apartmentguide. The numbers below include art galleries, art museums, and other fine art establishments.
- New York City, New York - 1,270 art galleries
- Los Angeles, California - 435 art galleries
- San Francisco, California - 376 art galleries
- Chicago, Illinois - 345 art galleries
- Houston, Texas - 283 art galleries
- Miami, Florida - 248 art galleries
- Washington, D.C. - 234 art galleries
- Seattle, Washington - 211 art galleries
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - 209 art galleries
- San Diego, California - 190 art galleries
Main Types of Art Galleries & Their Differences Explained
While there are several different types of art galleries and art establishments today, it is good to understand the similarities and differences between them as it can make a big impact on your wallet as both an artist and art connoisseur. Below is a list of 5 main types of art galleries:
Commercial Galleries feature temporary exhibitions from artists who are represented by the gallery. These types of galleries are selective as to the art that is displayed, and the exhibitions are rotated frequently based on customer demand. Commercial galleries are in the business of selling art and make their money by taking on average a 50% commission on the art sale price.
Artist-Run Initiative (ARI)
Cooperative galleries or Artist-Run Initiatives (ARI) are galleries which are operated by artists who pool their resources to pay for exhibits and publicity. These artist-run initiatives carefully jury their members to ensure the quality and fit of its members and their artwork meets their standards.
A vanity gallery is an art gallery that charges artists fees to exhibit their work and makes most of its money from artists rather than from sales to the public. Some vanity galleries charge a lump sum to arrange an exhibition, while others ask artists to pay regular membership fees and then promise to organize an exhibition with a certain period.
An art fair is an event that allows artists to display and sell their work as a temporary “exhibit or gallery” for a short period of time, usually from 1 day to 1 week at any given location. This type of artist-customer in person interaction can be great for both parties as it allows artists to build rapport directly with customers and the fee/commission charged if often less than a traditional gallery setting.
An online art gallery is a website that displays artwork usually with the intention of promoting it to potential buyers. This model of selling art reduces overhead expenses and/or commissions commonly found with the other gallery types. Ultimately, this allows the artist to sell the same product for less than they would in a gallery setting, thus providing arguably a better value for the same art.
The Art Gallery Business | How Art Galleries Make Money
Interested in starting your own art collection or adding to your current one? If so, it’s important to understand the basics of the art business and how art galleries make their money. Where and how you choose to shop will directly impact the retail price you pay.
The gallery sales commission is the main form of income for most traditional art galleries. A commission is the percentage of the art sale price that the gallery keeps, with the remainder being paid to the artist. As always, each gallery’s commission can vary, but the average is usually around 50%. For example, if an artist sells a piece for $4,000 through a gallery with a 50% commission, their take home for that piece is $2,000. Let’s assume the artist has a 50% profit margin; that means the cost of materials was $1,000 and their take home profit is $1,000.
Now let’s say the artist decides to forgo the traditional gallery pricing model and offer their artwork online. Assuming they keep the same 50% profit margin as above, their cost of materials of $1,000 plus profit of $1,000 equals a $2,000 retail price tag. That is a 50% reduction in price for the exact same piece of art as shown in the gallery setting. The difference between the $2,000 online gallery price and the $4,000 traditional gallery price is the elimination of the 50% traditional gallery commission, which is thus passed on to the customer as a 50% reduction in retail price.
Are Traditional Art Galleries Still Relevant?
After reading the above, you might wonder why artists would agree to sell at traditional art galleries when they only get to take home half of the sale price? Or why art connoisseurs would be willing to pay double the price to purchase from a brick and mortar gallery? In fact, there are many reasons why and here are the main ones:
Reasons for Artists
- Prestige/name recognition of being associated with a certain gallery.
- Built in audience/clientele that the art gallery brings.
- Difficulty/lack of knowledge on the sales/marketing front.
- Artist wants to focus their time solely on art creation.
- Art form is best appreciated in person (sculptures, 3D displays, etc.).
Reasons for Art Connoisseurs
- Ease of comparing artwork from several artists within one gallery.
- Enjoys the physical art gallery experience.
- Willing to pay a premium to view art in person prior to purchase.
- Uncertainty/lack of knowledge in purchasing from an online gallery.
At the end of the day, it’s up to the artist to decide which method will work best for their specific art form and how they want to spend their time creating, marketing and selling their artwork. No matter which route they choose, there is however a direct correlation to the type of art gallery they choose to display and sell their work and the resulting retail price to customers.
A Better Value Proposition: Artist Direct vs. Gallery Direct
As talked about earlier in this article, there is a huge price difference (not necessarily quality) between art purchased through traditional brick and mortar galleries as compared to online galleries. The reason is due to the total elimination of the gallery commission which is typically 50% of art sales price! Therefore, if you can find an artist with a proven track record (i.e. published work, awards, customer reviews, media interviews, etc.) you can likely save yourself a lot of money by purchasing directly through their online gallery.
PRO TIP: Because you aren’t able to see the physical product before you purchase, make sure to read the art description on the website thoroughly and ask the artist if you have any questions or concerns at all. If you aren’t sure what size or subject matter would look best in your space, send the artist a simple cell phone shot taken straight on of your wall or room and ask them to create a digital mockup for you. Given the artist direct approach of the online gallery, they should be readily available and willing to help you out and answer any questions you have.
Conclusion | Max Foster Fine Art Photography
Are you interested in adding landscape or nature photographic fine art to your home or office? Art buyers and collectors seeking personalized service tailored to meet their needs, gallery quality materials, experienced craftsmanship and real world value are best served by contacting artists directly through their personal website.
Since launching Max Foster Fine Art Photography in 2014, I have had the privilege to sell large format, museum quality, fine art photographic prints to private collectors, art consultants and businesses worldwide. The photographic art that I offer through my online gallery is the same or higher quality than you will find in any fine art photography gallery worldwide, often for 50% less than the price you would pay in a traditional gallery.
Offering this incredible value to my customers is why I chose the artist direct approach in the first place. I enjoy working one on one with clients to provide personalized recommendations on everything from sizing, print mediums and providing digital mockups of selected pieces. After browsing the below gallery collection, if you are interested in a complimentary digital rendering of one of my prints on your wall, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.