Career Profile of an Art Gallery Dealer

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An art gallery dealer works full-time at an art gallery as either the owner or a staff member. The art dealer, who is knowledgeable about the gallery's artists and able to sell their artworks, maintains good relationships with existing and potential collectors, art critics, artists and the public.

In order to operate a successful art gallery, art dealers need to be well-aware of the art market and its trends. They need to be able to think critically about art, and have a good eye for art. 

The business of selling art differs from other types of businesses because the visual arts have unique aspects such as aesthetic and academic discourse, and art history, which are lacking in other enterprises. Because of this, if the gallery owner really wants to succeed in the art world, building up a solid reputation for the gallery and its artists is an absolute necessity.

One way to create such a strong reputation for the gallery is by putting on consistent exhibitions of artists who are achieving critical acclaim by art critics and curators. If a gallery's artists are being invited by curators to be in other exhibitions and are getting reviewed by critics, then the gallery will be receiving a lot of favorable attention and likely sales.

Unlike a typical store, like a grocery store, for example, a gallery cannot post savings coupons in the newspaper for its items. Instead, the gallery dealer has to focus on creating the right discourse for the artworks in order to attract the appropriate collectors and followers and generate sales.

Relationship-building is crucial for an art gallery dealer. The dealer not only works with artists and collectors, but also with art critics, curators, art professors, art students, community or local leaders, and the gallery-going public.

Networking is vital for an art gallery dealer, who will also need to attend art openings at museums and similar art-related events. Being able to socialize easily is a key aspect of the job.

Art gallery dealers may attend art fairs and set up a booth to promote the gallery and its artists.

Making a good impression is what art galleries strive for. Art dealers are in the business of selling art and since presentation is so important in sales, the dealer and the gallery staff will dress professionally. Art dealers typically dress for success; the men wear suits and the women dress in a sophisticated fashion.

Education Needed to Be an Art Gallery Dealer

Art gallery dealers are knowledgeable in arts and culture, plus business. Some dealers may have an MBA only, while others may have a BA, BFA, or MA in art or art history. Having a college degree is not a requirement to be a dealer. What is most important is having the experience or know-how on how to operate a small business selling art.

One famous example is the story of art gallery owner Larry Gagosian who started his lucrative business by selling framed posters to eventually building a huge network of eponymous galleries around the world showing well-known international artists.

Skills Required to Be an Art Gallery Dealer

An art gallery dealer is an entrepreneur. Knowing how to start your own business plus having art connections are required.

Having solid business and sales skills, plus being passionate about art and the gallery's artists are vital because that is what helps sell the artwork to collectors.

Duties Required of an Art Gallery Dealer

An art dealer hires a staff to carry out the numerous duties in running an art gallery, such as an art gallery assistant who is in charge of the administrative tasks, and the art installer/handler who helps with the physical installation of the exhibition.

Career Opportunities for an Art Gallery Dealer

According to Statista, in 2009, the estimated number of employees in the global art market was 1,775,000, with 257,000 of that number employed in the US. A portion of that number pertains to dealers.

Further Resources