How Do Art Galleries Make Money?

How do art galleries make money? It’s a common question, and one that has a variety of answers. Some galleries make money through the sale of artwork, while others generate revenue through event planning or other means.

Checkout this video:


In the United States, non-profit art museums and galleries are often thought of as public charities that operate for the benefit of their communities. They are tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and receive nearly two-thirds of their funding from earned income and contributed income.

The remainder comes from government sources, including local, state, and federal agencies. Foundations and endowments are also important sources of funding for many museums and galleries, as are grants from corporate entities.

The Business Model

Art galleries make money through a variety of means, including commissions on sales, membership fees, and donations. They also generate income through events and merchandise sales.

Most art galleries earn the majority of their revenue from commissions on sales. When an artwork is sold, the gallery typically keeps a percentage of the sale price as a commission. The commission percentage varies depending on the gallery, but is typically between 20% and 50%.

Some galleries also charge membership fees. Members typically receive benefits such as invitations to exclusive events and discounts on purchases. Membership fees can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per year.

Many galleries also rely on donations from individuals and organizations. These donations can be in the form of cash or artworks. Smaller galleries may also generate income through events such as openings, concerts, and classes. Larger galleries may also sell merchandise such as books, jewelry, and clothing.

The Economics

The economics of an art gallery is quite simple. The gallery brings in artists to display their work. The artwork is usually put on consignment, which means the artist does not get paid until the artwork is sold. The gallery takes a cut of the profits, typically between 30 and 50 percent.

This business model is different from that of a retail store, which buys products from manufacturers or distributors and then marks up the price to make a profit. An art gallery, on the other hand, does not have any overhead costs beyond the rent for the physical space and the salaries for the employees.

The gallery relies on the sale of artwork to make money, which means that there is always a certain amount of risk involved. However, because art galleries typically only work with established or up-and-coming artists, the risk is often mitigated.

The Art Market

The art market is a large and global industry that supports a diverse range of economic activity. Galleries are just one part of this market, but they play an important role in its functioning. In order to understand how galleries make money, it is first necessary to understand how the art market works more broadly.

The art market can be divided into two main segments: the primary market and the secondary market. The primary market refers to transactions between artists and galleries, while the secondary market refers to transactions between collectors. Galleries typically make their money from sales in the primary market, though they may also occasionally participate in the secondary market.

The primary market is where most new art is sold. When an artist produces a new work, they will typically sell it to a gallery. The gallery will then put the work on display and attempt to sell it to a collector. If successful, the gallery will take a commission on the sale, typically between 20 and 50 percent. The artist will receive the remaining amount.

The secondary market is where collectors buy and sell works that have already been sold once before. This can happen through private sales or public auctions. Galleries may occasionally participate in secondary market transactions, but they generally make most of their money from sales in the primary market.

The Art World

In the art world, there are a variety of ways that galleries make money. Some galleries may be for-profit or non-profit, while others focus on artist representation, public programming, or project-based funding. There are also different models of art galleries, including artist-run spaces, co-ops, and open call submissions.

How Do For-Profit Art Galleries Make Money?
For-profit art galleries usually take a percentage of the sale price of the artwork as their commission fee. They may also have additional fees for things like insurance, framing, and shipping. For example, if an artwork is sold for $1,000 and the gallery has a 50% commission fee, the artist would receive $500 and the gallery would keep $500.

How Do Non-Profit Art Galleries Make Money?
Non-profit galleries usually rely on a combination of membership fees, donations, grants, and fundraising events to support their operations. They may also have gift shops or rent out their facilities for events.

How Do Artist-Run Spaces Make Money?
Artist-run spaces are usually operated by a collective of artists who share the costs and responsibilities of running the gallery. These kinds of galleries may have membership fees, donations, or they may sell artwork to support their operations.

How Do Co-Ops Make Money?
Cooperative galleries are usually owned and operated by a group of artists who sell their work through the gallery. These kinds of galleries often have membership fees or minimum monthly sales requirements for artists in order to participate.

Open Call Submissions: Some galleries make money by charging artists a submission fee to have their work juried into exhibitions. The submission fee covers the cost of jurying the work and installing the exhibition.

The Art Scene

In the art world, galleries are businesses that buy or commission artworks, then find buyers for those works. They can be brick-and-mortar storefronts, or they can exist online. Many galleries also host regular exhibitions, either of their own artists or as curated shows featuring guest artists.

The vast majority of galleries make the majority of their money from art sales. Galleries typically take a percentage of the sale price (usually 50% or less) as their commission. So, if an artwork sells for $1,000, the artist would get $500 and the gallery would get $500.

Some galleries also generate income through charging artist fees. These are usually paid by the artist in exchange for displaying their work in the gallery, and can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per month.

Other common sources of gallery income include charging admission fees for exhibitions, renting out their space for events, and selling merchandise such as prints, books, and catalogs.

The Art Market bubble

In the art world, the topic of money is taboo. Gallery owners, artists, dealers, and auction houses prefer to discuss art in terms of aesthetics, form, and historical importance. This is understandable—the business of buying and selling art can be crass, and it’s easy to see why those involved in the art world would prefer to distance themselves from it. But the fact remains that galleries are businesses, and they need to make money to stay afloat. So, how do they do it?

The answer is twofold: galleries make money through the sale of artwork, and they also generate income through various forms of commission. Let’s take a closer look at each of these revenue streams.

Art sales
The primary way that galleries make money is through the sale of artwork. Galleries typically take a 50% cut of any sale, with the other 50% going to the artist. This may seem like a lot, but it’s important to remember that the gallery is taking on all the risk when it comes to selling art. They are responsible for marketing the work, hosting exhibitions, and generally promoting the artist and their work.

In addition to sales commissions, galleries also generate income through various other forms of commission. One common example is charging a fee for placement in an exhibition. This fee can be a flat rate or a percentage of the total sale price of the artwork sold. Galleries may also charge artists for storage fees, shipping costs, or other administrative expenses associated with promoting their work.

The Art Market Crash

Over the past decade, the art market has seen unprecedented growth. In 2007, before the global economic downturn, the art market was worth an estimated $75 billion. by 2014, it had almost doubled in value to $135 billion. This rapid expansion was driven in large part by a new group of wealthy buyers from China and other parts of Asia.

However, this Art Market Crash has hit galleries hard. One London dealer told The Guardian that she had seen a 50% drop in sales since 2014. Many galleries have been forced to close their doors, and those that are still in business are struggling to stay afloat.

So how do art galleries make money? The traditional model is based on three things: art sales, commission-based art advisory services, and fees for hosting exhibitions. But in recent years, this model has come under pressure from a number of different forces.

The Future of the Art Market

As the global economy continues to fluctuate, the future of the art market has become increasingly uncertain. In recent years, art galleries have been forced to reevaluate their business models in order to stay afloat. So, how do art galleries make money?

Art galleries typically make money through three main sources: commissions on sales, Art Fairs, and private events. Commissions on sales are usually 50% of the total sale price, although this percentage can vary depending on the gallery. Art Fairs are large events where galleries rent booths to display and sell their artwork. Private events are just that – private parties or functions that are held at the gallery and typically require a rental fee.

In addition to these three main sources of income, art galleries also generate revenue through membership fees, donations, and government grants. Membership fees are typically charged on a yearly basis and allow members to visit the gallery as often as they like. Donations are often given by wealthy individuals or corporations who wish to support the gallery financially. Government grants are typically awarded to galleries that exhibit artwork by underrepresented artists or that focus on promoting social justice issues.

Despite these various streams of revenue, many art galleries still struggle to stay afloat. The high cost of rent, frequent changes in fashion and taste, and the ever-present threat of online competition all contribute to this problem. In order to survive in today’s market, art galleries must be creative in their approach to making money.


In conclusion, art galleries make money in a variety of ways, including charging admission fees, selling artwork, and renting out space for events. While each gallery is different, these are some of the most common ways that they generate revenue.

Scroll to Top