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Types of Galleries

Commercial Galllery

Co-Op Gallery

Rental Gallery

Vanity Gallery

Commercial Gallery

Commercial art galleries are professionally run businesses that derive their profit from sales of artwork, therefore take great care to select art and artists that they believe will sell and will enhance their gallery's reputation. This is basically why these are the most difficult to get into but also the most important to be in. They spend time and money cultivating collectors. If the artwork sells, the gallery makes a profit and the artist is then paid.


Co-op Gallery

A co-op gallery (also called artist-run initiatives) usually involves a group of artists who work together to show their work, promote the gallery, and sometimes offer community art classes or workshops. Some co-op galleries will even have studio space available for their members to create artwork on site.

The co-op gallery will require a membership fee, which will go towards gallery maintenance, rent, promotion, etc. You may have to pay a commission to the gallery as well, upon the sale of your artwork.

The main difference between a vanity gallery and a co-op gallery is that the artists in the co-op are invested in the running of the gallery. This can also be a great way to get experience with shows, to meet other artists, critics, curators, etc.

You’ll most likely want to be as involved as you can, so being physically close to the gallery will be important.


Rental Gallery

Although they might not have the same prestige that a commercial gallery or an alternative space might have, they are definitely a viable place to show your work, especially if you’re just starting out and need experience showing.

Most rental galleries charge a flat rate for a specific period of time, say $200 for 3 weeks. It will most likely be a “do it yourself” type of operation. You hang the artwork, design the invitations, do the PR, schedule and host the reception, and sometimes you might even have to staff the gallery.

This of course is an expensive proposition for a new artist since rental fees can be in the thousands and there is no guarantee that you'll recoup the expense in sales. To offset your investment, consider doing it with a group of artists who can share in the costs as well as the work of mounting a show.

Vanity Galleries

Vanity galleries are an offshoot of cooperative galleries (also called artist-run initiatives). A vanity gallery is an art gallery that charges artists fees in order 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. Others charge for a specified wall space. Galleries that ask artists to contribute to expenses, e.g. for marketing and advertising, can also fall into the same category.

There is much debate as to the value of vanity galleries. For the most part, vanity galleries don’t promote and develop relationships with artists like reputable commercial galleries do. They are not selective because they don't have to be. And it won’t necessarily impress a gallery director if he or she sees it on your resumeand many professional critics and reviewers tend to avoid them. However, some believe if you choose a vanity gallery that does promote its artists in some way and has a strong presence in the art community can be of benefit to new artists looking a venue where their artwork can gain some exposure and potentially sell to the public.  Best way to find a good one: ask other artists for recommendations. Do your homework: check out the gallery; ask lots of questions about their marketing efforts and their customer base; don't forget to talk to exhibiting artists about their experience there.