Friday, February 24, 2012

Gallery 2032 What art dealers can expect in twenty years

Most galleries rarely plan beyond their next show, but any good business knows the key to success is forward thinking with at least a 5-year window.

So what will the art gallery landscape look like, not in 2017, but say in the year 2032?  I’ve experienced enormous change in the last 20 years as an art dealer and I expect the same for the future.  Changes I have witnessed include, the development of the internet, digital photography, social media, mobile phones, apps, online stores, online auctions, museum art shows, Art Fairs, the proliferation of auction houses, video art, computer art, oh yes, not to mention two recessions.

How does one plan for the new art paradigm?  If the art model I have experienced so far can be a guide, then expect to see a ferocity of developments in technology drive the market.  The Internet, mobile, social media, globalization, self-promotion and condensation of galleries will be the rule of order.  This pattern seems clear, which means as a gallery (or artist) you need to prepare to be a part of the ever-growing world of transparency; this can be a good thing for those who embrace and move forward. 

Currently the art world is an imperfect model with a few major dominant players leading our profession.   This means that art prices are not transparent or clear on how pricing is derived. You have a few big auction houses and dominant galleries.  The lack of central leaders will ultimately change, with a more dominant role being carried out by the Internet.   The change will result in online mega-galleries and artist owned galleries.  This is already happening with,, and to mention just a few. 

Consolidation online will result in a loss of many of the brick and mortar gallery locations.  Large cities and places like Santa Fe will continue to support art galleries as important local industries but there will be a thinning of the ranks.  This is not say that the gallery as we know it will disappear, just as movie theaters a few will still be around. The experience they foster will be as much about social gatherings and events as selling art off the walls.  Transactions, viewing, and communications will be happening predominantly online. 

The advancement of technology is perfect for a product like art (I hate the word “product” when referring to art). Video will become a mainstay as will three-dimensional viewing.  Walking into a gallery will be both a real and virtual experience. Documentation of art production from start to finish in video format will be commonplace with interactions of social comments becoming part of a piece’s history. 

Problems for galleries will include the continued erosion of the client-gallery mode.  Customers will directly interact with the artist vs. a middleman (art dealer).  This will become the preferred route. It is already happening with museum shows where the less obtrusive, commercial art museum is now an important venue for many artists.  Cutting out art galleries will ultimately eat away at gallery dominance. So what’s an art dealer to do, close up now and start looking for a new profession?

I believe, it can be an exciting time, if you plan ahead.  Realize your profits may be less, which means you need to think outside the box when it comes to revenue.  The more diversified galleries with a strong vision of representing artists as partnerships, not product producers, should continue to flourish.  As a gallery you not are only supposed to sell artwork, but also help build an artists credentials. Focusing on this will bring you support from your artists and help solidify your place as a gallery that counts and one worth keeping. Developing relationships with your artists helps both parties. 

Art dealers will continue to have an important role in letting artists create while they manage, which will be as important as selling. The current way dealers are paid will metamorphose into something different, of which I can’t foresee, but significant changes will occur.  Just as taking credit cards through the Square attached to your iPhone is happening now.

So if you don’t have a Wall or a Channel, never tweet, can’t use a digital camera or recorder, don’t recognize the letters html or haven’t heard of Ruby, you’d better hire someone who does, because what these terms represent isn’t 20 years from now, it’s today’s world. I can only imagine what tomorrow will bring.


  1. Glad to have my view affirmed - I'm a former (and older) "gallery" artist now marketing and selling my own work via outdoor art shows and on-line - I sell only original paintings and sculptures. My husband is also an artist.With a few exceptions (2010 was a real bummer)I have done far better on my own than in galleries - I prepared myself by taking Community College classes in media arts and put up my first website in 2002. Unless you are traditional landscape painter who teaches and sells giclees,I recommend that you take the same path - if you're not already at the $10,000 +price level with a large following, you owe it to yourself to create your own game!

  2. Mark I've sold work of my fellow artists from my website and took a smaller commission because the artist shipped to the collector. I used to write articles for art magazines, so I write blogs about the other artists for my email newsletter.

    I've suggested to a couple of gallery owners who are friend that they would o well to hire arts writers to write specially for the gallery newsletter. If the articles are good, then the collector is already on the gallery website and can subscribe for free. they. An also purchase the artwork right there after reading the article. Hiring writers would be far less expensive than ads in magazines, and he marketing is direct and personal.

    I'm not suggesting that I write... My plate is full as an artist and coach, but I know a couple of great established arts writers as friends. One is freelance and writes for several art collector magazines. OR, since you can write, why not consider starting your own online magazine.

    Check out That's something I'm looking into. HP has a self publishing option to print and distribution authors own magazines for very reasonable prices, and I hear the quality is excellent. I believe all businesses will become a form of DIY in the next ten years.

  3. Mark,

    It was great to read this. You are correct that the times are changing and the way we view, collect, and market art needs to change if we want to connect with the next generation of art buyers.

    I'm currently curating an online show in collaboration with The Brigham Galleries Auction House. It's focused on realist art by some of the best realist painters and sculptors today, both mid-career and emerging artists. I believe we're paving a new way for artists and collectors.