Is the Traditional Art Gallery Still King?

Artwork Archive | June 12, 2017 (Updated September 20, 2022)

Within art circles, there has been a lot of discussions as to whether or not traditional art galleries are a dying method of art commerce.

The overall trend we found is that galleries are not dead, but the traditional models might be.

It’s not a new narrative: industry leaders who ignore warning signs to adapt to changing market needs, only to find themselves going under.

Here are some of the changes art galleries are making to stay relevant for artists and art collectors.

Focusing on Digital Models

The Hiscox 5th annual Art Trade report found that Instagram has now become the preferred social media platform for art buyers and some major art galleries are taking note. In a year, galleries like The Tate and auction houses like Sotheby’s have more than doubled their Instagram followers by focusing social media marketing efforts there.

The report also found that four of the top ten online art sellers were also traditional brick and mortar platforms. These findings help confirm that traditional galleries have a huge opportunity to thrive in digital mediums.

The number one reason for this? Consumer trust.

Two-thirds of the consumers surveyed in the report felt that not being able to physically see the art before purchasing it is the primary drawback buying art online.

For the most part, brick-and-mortar galleries already have an established reputation and trust needed to remain the preferred market for purchasing art (especially high-value artwork).

However, when galleries also focus on digital methods, they snag some of the $3.75 billion dollars sales being made online—and stay relevant to artists looking for buyers.

Moving Art Beyond the Walls of the Gallery

Many artists feel their galleries could do more to promote their art by getting involved in shows outside of the actual gallery space. And, gallerists agree.

One of the best ways to stay current in the art market is to attend art fairs and host cultural events to promote their artists and attract new customers. For more places where people are looking to buy art, download our Essential Guide to Collecting Art.

Buying Smaller Gallery Spaces

Rising rent costs across major cities are driving galleries to move into smaller spaces. Over the last few years, gallery districts across New York have seen rapid change as rent prices soar and galleries are forced to move or downsize. But, the numbers show that for all the galleries that have closed in these districts, more have opened.  

Galleries are finding spaces in neighborhoods where art galleries never were before and it doesn’t appear to be hurting sales. They are using the welcoming atmosphere of smaller spaces to invite more potential buyers in and build new and vibrant art communities.

Fewer large galleries doesn't mean they no longer exist, they might just look different.

So, Do Art Galleries Keep the Crown?

There is a lot of criticism in the way gallery sales models work and whether or not art buyers and collectors still need them in the changing market.

But, galleries across the world are changing their models and adapting to fit into the changing landscape. By focusing on the digital and getting out in the community, galleries remain the most widely acceptable and credible way for artists to grow their career.

The competition to get gain gallery representation still remains steep for artists. Sign up for a 14 day free trial of Artwork Archive to build a portfolio that stands out.

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