A gallery is a narrow passage that runs along at least one side of a building, often treated as a decorative feature. The term can also refer to a sheltered walkway in a public garden, especially when lined with trees or shrubs. The word was borrowed into English from French in the 15th century, and by the 17th century was being used in a literary context: “Out on the small front gallery she had hung Bobinot’s Sunday clothes to air” (Kate Chopin, “The Gallery”) and in architectural contexts: “a long narrow passage set into the thickness of a wall and serving as a communication passage between different parts of an edifice,” “a second-story gallery opening onto a room below, such as that found in a church or legislative house,” and finally, in theatres, “the balcony containing the least expensive seats.”
An art gallery is a place that exhibits paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photography and other contemporary visual arts. Its primary mission is to nurture and promote artists, and expose them to the public, collectors, media, and cultural institutions in order to establish their careers, grow their reputations, and increase the value of their works in professional art markets locally and globally. Galleries do all that is within their power to help the artists they represent succeed and in return for their efforts, they receive a commission from any artwork sold during an exhibition or from a sale after the exhibition ends.
Besides promoting their own artists, galleries also collaborate with other art dealers and private collections to present the works of their represented artists in major fairs and exhibitions, as well as museum and cultural center installations. They also manage the distribution of artworks from the artists they represent, taking care of everything involved: transportation, insurance, invoicing, coordinating with collectors, establishing their correct value on the market, monitoring sales, etc.
Aside from exhibiting and selling artworks, galleries are constantly searching for emerging or established artists to invite them to be part of their program. The scouting process is a complex and laborious task, since it requires a wide range of creative, strategic and organizational skills to discover the most exciting artistic talent on the market. The scouting can include social media research, visiting international art events, analyzing sales records, comparing and contrasting pricing and quality, and many other aspects that make up the highly competitive field of contemporary artistic production. In addition, the gallery must be able to predict the future direction of the art scene and the needs and expectations of its clients. This way, it is able to adapt its strategy and offer the best possible services to their clientele. These services may be as simple as providing a space for an artist to exhibit his or her work or, as complex as arranging for the representation of an entire generation of artists who will become the next generation of masters. In both cases, it is a win-win for everyone involved.