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What Are the Different Types of Art Galleries?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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There are as many types of art galleries as there are types of art. In general, an art gallery has a specific focus, and is managed by a curator who specializes in that type of art. Common focuses for galleries are art from a particular region, art in a certain medium, art of a singular style, or art which has a specific focus, such as political art. Typically, all of the art in a gallery is for sale, although the gallery may retain a special permanent collection, or sponsor a unique display of art.

Most art galleries are public, meaning that anyone can walk into the art gallery and purchase art if he or she desires. Typically, public galleries host frequent openings and readily advertise their presence. Many artists get their start at public galleries, which can sell work on commission or purchase work from an artist and resell it. Some galleries, however, are private, meaning that you must be a member to enter. Private galleries show high-end art, and sponsor lavish openings.

Many art galleries have curators which focus on art from a specific region or period. Examples of regions include European art, Australian aboriginal art, Chinese art, Asian art in general, or African art. Sometimes the regional focus will be extremely limited; a gallery might only show Peruvian textiles, for example. At other times, the focus is more general, and is designed to include a wide range of artistic styles from a general region of the world. In some instances, a gallery only features art from a specific period in history. This is especially common with contemporary galleries, which display primarily modern art.

Commonly, art galleries will be dedicated to a particular medium such as furniture, oil painting, jewelry, photography, sculpture, textiles, or pottery. The medium may be specific to a region or time period, or it may be a more general collection of works in that medium. Usually the art on display is from a wide assortment of artists, allowing collectors of that medium to explore newcomers to the field and purchase a range of art.

Another common type of art gallery is a gallery which has a specific cultural focus. That focus might be political, historical, or medium based. For example, a gallery might choose to only display contemporary comic art. Another gallery might offer work by twentieth century Jewish artists, or display political artwork from African refugees. These galleries are typically open to members of the public, to encourage cultural education and enrichment.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Musical Expert researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Ivan83 — On May 02, 2012
There is a gallery on the boardwalk that only shows art works related to horses. And as silly as that my sound, they seem to be incredibly busy. Any time they are open for one of the art walks their gallery is packed and they seem to be doing a lot of selling.

I am not a huge fan of horses and I honestly think it is a pretty silly idea for an art gallery. Despite that, I have to give them credit for showing some pretty cool art. Not all of their paintings were cliched Western scenes. Some of them take the concept and the aesthetic of the horse in really interesting directions.

By tigers88 — On May 02, 2012

There is a gallery in LA that I went to once that only shows art that has to do with experimental machines. This presents itself in many different forms. Some of the works were static sculptures, others were more like robots. Some incorporated a video or sound element and others could be interacted with by the viewer.

It was a really interesting viewing experience and one of the more interesting galleries that I have ever been to. Most galleries, in spite of their ambition, have really boring organizing principles. I find that they tend to limit themselves arbitrarily. But this gallery in LA managed to be both focused and omnivorous.

By nextcorrea — On May 01, 2012

There are almost as many different types of art galleries as there are different kinds of art. Some galleries focus on a certain time, or place, or style, or artist, or medium. I went to a gallery recently that only shows video art. I went to another one once that was dedicated entirely to Salvador Dali.

For that reason it is good to do a little research on the galleries in your area before you go out on a tour. If you are not into landscapes or expressionism you might want to avoid the galleries that focus heavily on that type of art. Rest assured that there is a gallery out there somewhere that is filled with exactly what you want to look at.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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