Become a Photo Gallery Owner
Owning and operating a photography gallery is an exciting career option. To be at the forefront of artistic trends and to discover the next big artist is many a photographer’s dream. Gallery owners and operators are the tastemakers, movers and shakers in the artistic community and the best ones are responsible for discovering famous artists and photographers.
Most gallery owners seek to promote and support photography as a significant art form.
Many gallery owners are practicing photographers themselves. Others are former photographers and many gallery owners are art buyers or curators. Therefore, gallery ownership is an incredibly diverse field. Naturally, galleries tend to form in cities and towns where there is a strong artistic presence. Though this does present some competition, it is actually a blessing in disguise. Any area where there are large concentrations of galleries, artists and museums are areas where your next gallery could flourish.
Owning and operating a gallery demands a unique combination of artistic knowledge, business savvy, communication and practical skills. More importantly, the successful gallery owner loves art and photography, but also loves to sell art.
What the Job Entails
Since they are responsible for the commercial and artistic success, gallery owners have a multitude of responsibilities. On any given day, a gallery owner will be responsible for promoting and advertising the gallery’s work. This is especially important for upcoming shows featuring new artists who have the potential to make a name for themselves in the art world. Owning a gallery also means assessing and selecting what art or photographs you will feature in upcoming shows. Freelance and fine arts photographers often send their work to galleries in hopes that their work might be featured in shows. Nevertheless, gallery owners scout new artists and photographers too.
Exhibitions require a great deal of responsibility too. Gallery owners often feature three to five shows per season. These can vary by the type of photography featured. For instance, you might do a show featuring fashion photography or documentary photography for two different shows. It is also common to feature one artist or photographer whose work is very promising. Doing so creates a symbiotic relationship between the artist and the gallery. When you do put together an exhibition, you can expect to do plenty of organizing the photos: what will you hang, in what order, in what size and what type of lighting will you use.
Knowledge and Skills Required
- The successful gallery owner has an eye for talent and a deep passion for photography. Galleries are often at the forefront of artistic trends, so the best gallery owners/operators know great work when they see it.
By far, the best way to start your career as a gallery owner/operator is to first intern at a gallery and then work as an assistant. As an intern or assistant, you can expect to complete mostly administrative tasks.
These tasks include the following: assisting with marketing and public relations for the gallery and upcoming shows, cataloguing sales and keeping records of archives, make and maintain contacts with artists, buyers, other gallery owners and perhaps even local museums or art collectors.
Gallery owners often from other fields, though some practice their art too. An advanced degree in photography is not necessary, though it is common to find those who have studied the history of art and photography. Gallery owners can easily find or come from careers as photo archivists, curators and fine arts photographers. Technical skills are not necessary either, though most gallery owners have at least some working knowledge of the artwork that they feature.
At well-funded galleries, owners or managers earn a commission in addition to their salary. These commissions can be earned through sales, loans and any booked events. The average salary for a gallery owner or manager is between $55,000 and $57,000, according to SimplyHired.com.