How to Differentiate an Art Gallery From an Art Museum

art gallery

Art Galleries and museums are both institutions that display and promote art. However, their missions, function,  and typical site layouts differ greatly. But how exactly?

Art Gallery vs. Art Museum

An art gallery displays artwork for the purpose of selling it. Typically, a gallery displays artwork for a limited time before offering it for sale.

Art museums are public institutions that house and protect artwork for public appreciation, education, and scholarship. They typically display collections and serve as the primary venue for special exhibitions, often with a temporary theme. 

Art museums are often publicly funded and free or have an admission fee of nominal or free. Some museums are located in historic buildings or are housed in buildings designed as museums.

The Purpose of an Art Museum

An art museum aims to improve the public’s understanding of art and its history through the display and interpretation of a permanent collection. They also serve as important educational resources for the public, providing information about artists, periods of art history, cultural context, and the techniques used in making the artworks. Art museums are also a valuable resource for students, providing opportunities for direct study, research, and the viewing of original works of art.

Art museums often charge an admission fee, which can vary widely depending on the type of venue. Many art museums have a pay-what-you-wish policy, which encourages visitors to pay the lowest amount that they are able to afford.

The Function of an Art Museum

Art museums display and interpret the art in their collections to the public. Some museums have permanent collection displays that are integrated into their architecture. These permanent displays are supplemented by temporary exhibitions that focus on specific time periods, movements, or styles.

The Purpose of an Art Gallery

The purpose of an art gallery is to promote artists, sell their artwork, and increase their public profile through regular exhibitions. Art galleries can often be found in the same buildings as other cultural institutions, such as museums, libraries, or universities.

Art galleries are often located in urban areas and are typically clustered in neighborhoods referred to as art districts or art clusters.

The typical art gallery has a particular theme, and artists are chosen for their ability to best express that theme. The path of an artist’s career is often linked closely with the support of a particular gallery owner or a group of gallery owners. Some galleries serve as the primary venue for special exhibitions, often with a temporary theme.

Artists choose to show their work in a gallery because they hope that the audience will like it and they will be able to sell it. Galleries that sell more artwork make more money and hold more exhibitions. This causes a chain reaction in which artists use galleries to promote themselves to produce artwork that galleries will buy. Some artists use galleries merely as a springboard to produce artwork that will be shown in museums.

The Bottom Line

Art galleries and art museums are very different in their function, but they seem to be very similar on the surface. They both display and promote the artwork of artists, which makes them similar in that regard. However, they differ tremendously in their approach, intent, and methods.

Maya Gallery is a well-known art gallery in Santa Fe. We showcase aesthetic paintings, bronze statues, and jewelry collections. Visit us today!