Opening any kind of business is a tall order. There are a lot of logistics that are involved when it comes to planning and succeeding in the successful opening. When it comes to being diligent with your plan, an art gallery is no different. Many people believe that art galleries are simple to own and operate but this is not true. Just like the art itself, a great deal of responsibility and skill comes with ensuring that you can open up a gallery, and even more to keep it operating successfully.
These tips will help any prospective art aficionado open up their doors and allow crowds to come in and admire the work displayed in a gallery. Before the lights come on, the exhibit begins, and the people walk across the floor, you need to be caught up on how to accomplish this. Here is how you can open your gallery to the public and make a name for yourself as a fine art purveyor.
Finding the Right Space
Studio spaces are what many artists, organizations, collectives, and collaborators use as their base of operation. They are less restricting than home studios or offices and they allow for large floor space to accommodate their supplies and the like. Art galleries are often in a similar style, with big floors, high ceilings, and plain white walls. This is because they need the space to operate.
Great galleries often feature upstairs or downstairs spaces for more private areas like a closed-off office or a basement for storage. Finding the right space for you is a big part of having a successful art gallery and a cramped or dingy gallery. Of course, the bigger the office, the more potential space for art or installations.
Things you need to consider when searching for the right space include; rental/ownership cost, square footage, utility bills, location, lease length. These factors can help you determine other things like how much you can spend on art (more on that later) as well as how much space you can use for gallery viewings and shows. Your studio space is one of the most important things to ensuring that your gallery is successful at all.
Without a large and cost-manageable location, you could be hurting your chances. This does not just mean finding the right place that has high enough ceilings, good enough walls, adequate storage potential, and reasonable rent/purchase cost but also the area where it is located. No one wants to go to a gallery in the middle of nowhere, but you also do not want to break the bank renting in a crowded area, so choose wisely and do not settle.
Choosing Your Art
If finding the right space is 1a in terms of importance, then finding the right art to display in your gallery is 1b. They go hand-in-hand for the relevancy and success of your business so it is good to know what you are looking for. For example, if you want to buy Andy Warhol art, then you need to find a trusted dealer and confirm that it is authentic, for Warhol’s art is often found on the fake market.
In fact, if you want any kind of famous artist’s work, you need to confirm its authenticity. Not only that, but art from this level of talented and successful names is not going to be cheap. Going into the art world without being realistic about the costs is a good way to see yourself splashing around in the kiddy pool, so to speak. Being successful means you have to be willing to dish out some money to acquire great pieces that attract collectors and admirers to your gallery.
Not only is cost and name recognition something you need to take into account when finding art, but also your ability to house it properly. Art is very delicate and needs certain conditions to not hurt its integrity so your gallery has to be good enough to handle this. The art you choose will need different conditions based on the age, condition, paint or material used, and size.
The size of the art is not so much of a factor unless you are housing statues and other larger pieces, installations too. The size of your gallery is something you need to map out to know how to space everything out but certainly know that your art is precious and has to be stored in the correct temperature and frames/cases/wraps.
Choosing the right art for your gallery also relies on what you are going for. Modern, contemporary, classical, baroque, abstract, etc. are periods and styles of art so if you choose Andy Warhol, you likely would not place it next to a Rembrandt. Consistent style or theme when you do showings is important to the aesthetic value of your gallery. After all, it is an art gallery.
Marketing Your Gallery
Another major need is the ability to market your gallery. Having this figured out before you open your doors helps you hit the ground running. It could mean advertising on billboards or other physical mediums around your city or area, or it could mean setting up a website, which should be done regardless. Marketing your gallery improves your chances of attracting art buyers and admirers alike. When you want to do a showing in the future for a specific collection or event, you have to have enough interest in your gallery in the first place which is why marketing is so important, just like any business.
Setting up a website and branding your gallery helps improve your potential business as well. Art galleries are not just for the display of art, while it is the most obvious reason for an art space, they need to act like a storefront for potential buyers as well. Without a solid marketing effort, you will not attract buyers to help keep the lights on. This is not meant to scare you off of opening your art gallery, but you have to think like an artist and a business person.
Being savvy with your budget allows you to bring in the art, market the gallery and the business, and turn a profit down the line. Still, creating a marketing strategy is not too hard. You need to cater to the most likely to be purchasing art while also being aware that you need to bring in people who may not be art appreciators. A mix of digital and traditional is usually the best way to go. Never forget to have a catchy but cool name to display in the window or on your sign too.
Funding and Capital
As with any business, the startup costs are not something to scoff at. Some people have been ready and waiting for the right time to open their gallery and others might be jumping in quickly because the timing seemed right. What this leaves you with is a question with two answers: Do I have enough money to open my gallery? This is important because, as stated, art is not cheap and running a business is not either. Before you even think about making a profit you need to know if you can afford to begin your gallery in the first place. If the answer is yes, then you probably have been waiting and have funding or capital to do so. If not, then there are plenty of options to get to work.
Funding can either come from your pocket or you can get assistance. Business loans are an extremely popular way to bring business to life. Depending on the size of your business, your credit report, the projected health of the business, the loan will vary. It also varies depending on where you apply. Banks are the safest source to apply for a business loan because they are trusted financial institutions and offer better rates and repayment plans than third-party lenders. Likely, they will offer a reasonable amount as well. The important thing to note is that you have options so do not start reaching for the money after your first loan offer, you need to shop around to see what works best for you. Interest rates can be a killer so it needs to be taken into account.
Other possible funding can come from civilian benefactors who offer to cover costs, usually to be a partner of some sort. If you want to open a gallery with another person, then you have some more financial flexibility. There are art grants from governments that can help because you are offering a cultural service too, not just a business. This can mean that your art needs to reach a quota on local artists or similar. Not just governments, but art institutions can provide funding as well without any quotas or requirements so it is good to look into which ones are available to you.
Maintenance and Handiwork
Another thing you need to consider when you plan on opening an art gallery is upkeep. Not in the financial sense, but the handiwork and maintenance sense. Electrical jobs, plumbing, drywall, flooring, ventilation/AC, are all things that are not in your repertoire. Or at least they are stuff that should be left to the experts. Making sure your gallery is ready for any possible problems is a big consideration to make. What happens if you have faulty lights and have no way to fix them? What if the floor is constantly creaking and visitors are complaining? Any good business should have a contractor on retainer (so to speak) for when problems arise.
Successfully maintaining the space will allow you to worry more about your gallery visitors, art sales, and shows rather than the AC. Air conditioning and ventilation are up there on the list of things that need to be running functionally. If you recall, art is very fragile so the conditions must be right. This is something you can always discuss with the contractor or HVAC technician, to set your gallery’s temperature control to the right setting and keep the place safe for the art and clean for the guests and yourself. Never underestimate the potential for things to go wrong, which is why being prepared with a contractor or laborer helps you deal with those issues promptly before it gets out of hand.
If you want to hire security then, by all means, you can but it is costly. Similarly, it might be a bit of an overkill to hire a dedicated security guard. For your purposes, you need something more practical and modern and security measures are a must for your gallery. You are housing some precious goods and you want to keep them and your gallery safe.
Using cameras is also a must to surveil the outside and inside of the building, along with password-protected computers for your office, a safe for any financial transactions, and even motion sensors if you want to push it farther. The point is that you have to assume your gallery is someone’s target and your art must be kept safely in your possession. This is especially true as gallery’s can host other people’s art that is on sale and it would be a disaster to tell them that you cannot keep it safe.
When it comes to starting any business you have some mighty boxes to check off. Budget, finances, planning, storefront, marketing, and the like are just some of the needs that have to be met. When it comes to opening an art gallery, you need to have these on your checklist and then some. Choosing your art and your gallery space are the two most important, after that it becomes a matter of ensuring that your gallery is a success. Finding funding for the gallery, securely storing everything, and maintaining your space are some of the supporting needs for your gallery.
Without a good understanding of what it takes to open your art gallery and bring your dreams to life, you could find yourself in a tough spot. That is why these tips will help you when you one day open your doors and open up your vision to guests.