Art Gallery Owner The Buzz


Millions of people are passionate about art. And most artists are passionate about having their work admired and appreciated -- and occasionally purchased. So what is their medium? An art gallery, of course. Gallery owners have the rewarding career of bringing art and people together.

A love of art is necessary in order to be a successful art gallery owner. In fact, many owners are artists themselves.

An idea was sprouting in the minds of Vincent M. Grech and some of his friends. Grech, a painter, wanted to open a gallery to give emerging artists of all media a chance to exhibit their work.

"I thought it would be a great life experience to be able to open a gallery exhibiting art by friends, other artists and myself," Grech says.

That vision is now a gallery in Chicago. Grech also has a website where visitors can view his artwork.

But finding time to run the gallery, organize exhibits, work his day job and continue to create works of art is, well...difficult at times. "I can't even begin [to say] how hard it is for me to do this," says Grech.

"It wouldn't be so hard if I didn't have to work my day job -- murals, faux finishing, gilding, wall finishes, etc. I work during the day. I then go to the gallery and work on future exhibits and paint in the basement until 12 or 1 a.m."

Planning an exhibit takes thoughtful consideration and plenty of work.

First, Grech has to find a group of artists that clearly complement each other. Once the date has been chosen for the exhibit, he contacts all the artists and sends them information packets.

Then it's time to contact the audience. Grech begins making postcards for the mailing list. The postcards are printed, given labels and stamps and then sent out. Making posters is also an effective marketing strategy. Grech displays them in as many stores as possible.

Time to prepare the gallery! "I fill holes and repaint the walls. Then I'm ready to collect the art from the artist so I can then begin hanging the work," says Grech.

Each art piece needs a label. Grech gets busy on that, placing each label next to the work. Then he has to sweep and mop the floors. Promotional packets are sent to various newspapers. Now Grech can buy refreshments for the opening reception.

Operating an art gallery is challenging, yet certainly rewarding. In today's information age, many gallery owners are using the Internet as an effective marketing tool as well.

In fact, strictly online galleries are becoming increasingly popular.

Jeff Johnston is the owner of an online art gallery. Beginning an online gallery didn't occur to him until he began researching the Internet for a virtual community of artists. He came up with next to nothing.

This was the birth of his site. Although it's a part-time job for Johnston, he refers to it as his passion and business. Johnston is dedicated to building a site where artists can display their work.

"I spend anywhere from 10 hours a week to 40 hours, depending on the need," he says.

Johnston strongly believes in the benefits of an online gallery. "The audience size of a physical gallery is limited to people who are in the area, whereas an online gallery is not limited in any way," says Johnston.

"Anyone in the world can come to my gallery. In fact, we have quite an audience in Japan. At least three percent of our visitors are coming to us from Japan. A physical gallery...could not possibly hope to get visitors from Japan on a regular basis."

For Johnston, the online gallery truly is a labor of love. "The artists own their display area, and I do not charge a commission for the sale of any artwork," he says.

"I do make money at the gallery through sponsor ads and a small set-up and design fee, but the artist gets all the benefits of being on the Net without having to give up any profit of their own."

Johnston is thinking ahead, as most successful owners do. "I have a lot of plans for the future of the art gallery. My first priority is getting the capability for credit card processing online, as there seems [to be] a huge demand for the ability to sell art and reproductions by the artists."

A passion for art, business know-how and public relations skills are all helpful in opening a successful art gallery. Computer skills are necessary if you're considering an online gallery.

Both traditional galleries and online galleries have particular benefits. Many artists and art buyers believe that there is no substitute for seeing a work of art physically there in front of you. But an artist can certainly obtain a larger audience by displaying over the Internet.

Traditional and virtual gallery owners do share a similar vision, however. That is to display interesting works of art to an interested public. Gallery owners love art. And this is what keeps them going.

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