An art dealer is a person or company that buys and sells works of art. Art dealers' professional associations serve to set high standards for accreditation or membership and to support art exhibitions and shows.
An art dealer typically seeks out various artists to represent, and builds relationships with collectors and museums whose interests are likely to match the work of the represented artists. Some dealers are able to anticipate market trends, while some prominent dealers may be able to influence the taste of the market. Many dealers specialize in a particular style, period, or region. They often travel internationally, frequenting exhibitions, auctions, and artists' studios looking for good buys, little-known treasures, and exciting new works. When dealers buy works of art, they resell them either in their galleries or directly to collectors. Those who deal in contemporary art usually exhibit artists' works in their galleries, and take a percentage of the price the works sell for.
Art dealers often study the history of art before entering on their careers. Related careers that often cross-over include curators from museums and art auction firms are industry-related careers. Gallery owners who don’t succeed may seek to work more successful galleries. Others pursue careers as art critics, academics, curators for museums or auction houses, or practicing artists.
Dealers have to understand the business side of the art world. They keep up with trends in the market and are knowledgeable about the style of art people want to buy. They figure out how much they should pay for a piece and then estimate the resale price. They are also often passionate and knowledgeable about art. Those who deal with contemporary art promote new artists, creating a market for the artists' works and securing financial success for themselves. The art world is subject to economic booms and bust just like any other market. Art dealers must be economically conscious in order to maintain their livelihoods. The mark ups of art work must be carefully monitored. If prices and profits are too large, then investments may be devalued should an overstock or economic downturn occur.
To determine an artwork's value, dealers inspect the objects or paintings closely, and compare the fine details with similar pieces. Some dealers with many years of experience learn to identify unsigned works by examining stylistic features such as brush strokes, color, form. They recognize the styles of different periods and individual artists. Often art dealers are able to distinguish authentic works from forgeries (although even dealers are sometimes fooled).
Notable art dealers
- Larry Gagosian (born 1945)
Head of the multimillion dollar Gagosian Gallery group.
- Arne Glimcher (born 1938)
Glimcher is the founder of The Pace Gallery and is widely known as one of the art world's most powerful dealers. The Pace Gallery represents contemporary artists including Chuck Close, Tara Donovan, David Hockney, Maya Lin and Kiki Smith. It also represents the estates of several artists, including Pablo Picasso, Agnes Martin, Ad Reinhardt, and Alexander Calder. During his career he has worked closely with important artists including Jean Dubuffet, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, and Lucas Samaras. In 2007, Glimcher received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
- Edith Halpert (1900–1970)
Halpert was born in 1900 in Odessa, arrived in the U.S. as a penniless Russian Jewish immigrant and grew to become a pioneering New York City art dealer, transforming the landscape of Modern art. Over her forty year career from 1926 through the 1960s, Halpert brought recognition and market success to many avant-garde American artists. Her establishment The Downtown Gallery, one of the first in Greenwich Village, introduced and showcased many modern art luminaries. Halpert died at age 70 a multimillionaire, with Sotheby's crediting her with having put modernist painting auctions on the map. Its posthumous sale of her collection went for million in 1973.
Perls (1912–2008) was born and raised in Berlin. He studied art history in Munich, but was forced to finish his education in Basel, Switzerland, as the Nazis were no longer allowing degrees for Jews. He ran Perls Galleries for over 60 years. His gallery dealt with contemporary American artists, modern works from the School of Paris and Mexican and South American art. Perls also developed an interest in art from Benin and built a sizable collection. He was not only an art dealer, but also a donor as he contributed many significant works of art to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He died June 2, 2008 in Mount Kisco, N.Y. at age 96.
Struever was born in 1931 in Milan, Indiana. She attended the Tobé-Coburn School For Fashion Careers in New York City, after obtaining her bachelor's of science degree from Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana in 1953. She began collecting and dealing in American Indian art in 1971, and is regarded as a leading scholar on historic and contemporary Pueblo Indian pottery and Pueblo and Navajo Indian jewelry. She has authored books on Charles Loloma, the foremost American Indian jeweler, and Dextra Quotskuyva, the pre-eminent contemporary Hopi potter, as well as exhibition catalogues on Hopi potter Iris Nampeyo and other Hopi art, and has guest curated museum shows in several cities.
German-born Seligmann (1858–1923) moved to Paris in 1874 where he set up an antiquarian business in 1880. Benefiting from the interest of clients such as Edmond de Rothschild, he moved to the Place Vendôme in 1900 and in 1904 opened an office in New York. In 1909, he acquired the Hôtel de Monaco in Paris where he was able to impress his more important clients such as the Russian Stroganoff family and the high-flying British politician Sir Philip Sassoon. In New York, he developed interest in European art attracting collectors such as Benjamin Altman, William Randolph Hearst and J. P. Morgan. On his death, his son Germain Seligman continued to run Jacques Seligmann & Company.
- John Weber (1932-2008)
Weber was born in 1932 in Los Angeles. He was a radio corpsman in the Navy during the Korean War before receiving a bachelor's degree from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1958. As a contemporary art dealer, Weber was ahead of his time as he was one of the early promotors of Conceptual Art, Post-Minimalist sculpture and Italian Arte Povera. He was the director of several galleries throughout his career and helped organize shows that featured big names such as Robert Indiana, Richard Long and Andy Warhol. Weber died May 23, 2008 in Hudson, N.Y. at age 75.
Other notable art dealers
- Kurt Walter Bachstitz, 1882-1949
- Colnaghi & Co, established c. 1760
- Paul Durand-Ruel, 1831–1922
- M Knoedler & Co, 1846-2011
- Duveen Brothers, (Joseph Joel Duveen 1843-1908, and Henry J. Duveen 1855-1918)
- Georges Petit, 1856–1920
- Theo van Gogh, 1857-1891
- Jacques Seligmann, 1858–1923
- Alfred Stieglitz, 1864–1946
- Berthe Weill, 1865–1951
- Ambroise Vollard, 1866–1939
- Joseph Duveen, 1st Baron Duveen, 1869–1939
- Paul Cassirer, 1871–1926
- Wilhelm Uhde, 1874–1947
- Léonce Rosenberg, 1879-1947
- Herwarth Walden, 1879–1941
- René Gimpel, 1881–1945
- Paul Rosenberg, 1881-1959
- Joseph Brummer, 1883-1947
- Goupil & Cie, 1850-1884
- Adolphe Goupil, 1827-1884 then Boussod, Valadon & Cie, 1884-1919
- Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, 1884–1979
- Hugo Perls, 1886–1977
- Léopold Zborowski, 1889-1932
- Paul Guillaume, 1891–1934
- Georges Wildenstein, 1892–1963
- Katia Granoff (fr), 1895-1989
- Sidney Janis, 1896–1989
- Samuel M. Kootz, 1899-1982
- Pierre Matisse, 1900–1989
- Betty Parsons, 1900–1982
- René Drouin, 1905-1979
- Leo Castelli, 1907–1999
- Ileana Sonnabend, 1914–2007
- Heinz Berggruen 1914–2007
- Daniel Wildenstein, 1917–2001
- Jock Truman 1920-2011
- André Emmerich, 1924–2007
- Gregg Juarez, 1925-
- Ivan Karp, 1926-2012
- Richard Bellamy 1927–1998 
- David Whitney, 1939-2005
- Robert Miller, 1939-2011
- Bruno Bischofberger, 1940 -
- Charles Cowles, 1941-
- Mary Boone, 1951-
- Serge Sorokko, 1954 -
- Thaddaeus Ropac, 1960 -
- Antique Tribal Art Dealers Association, Inc. (ATADA)
- Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA)
- Art and Antique Dealers League of America (AADLA)
- Association of Art and Antiques Dealers (LAPADA)
- British Art Market Federation (BAMF)
- British Antique Dealers' Association (BADA)
- Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d'Art (CINOA)
- Fine Art Dealers Association (FADA)
- Private Art Dealers Association (PADA)
- Society of London Art Dealers (SLAD)
- The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF)
- Art finance
- Art market
- Art sale
- Art valuation
- Art world economics
- Blockage discount
- Collector's Guide to Working with Art Dealers, 45th Anniversary Edition, The Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), New York
- Alan D. Bryce, Art Smart: The Intelligent Guide to Investing in the Canadian Art Market, Dundurn, 2007. ISBN 1550026763, 9781550026764
- Career: Art Dealer, The Princeton Review
- Cowley, Stacy (2008-04-16). "Amid art boom, dealers brace for a bust". Fortune Small Business. Retrieved 2008-06-03.
- Dealer Arne Glimcher Thinks Art Market Is `A Little Bit Crazy' - Bloomberg.com
- Grimes, William (2008-06-05). "Klaus Perls, Art Dealer Who Gave Picassos to the Met, Dies at 96". New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
- Bauver, Robert (Spring 2007). "ATADA Lifetime Achievement Awards - Antique Tribal Arts Community Honors Its Own". ATADA News (Antique Tribal Arts Dealers Association, Inc.). Retrieved 2009-10-04.
- Smith, Roberta (2008-06-01). "John Weber, 75, Contemporary-Art Dealer, Is Dead". New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-05.
- interview with Richard Bellamy, 1963, Archives of American Art, retrieved February 1, 2009
- Cartoon Strip about Art Dealers in The Tatler Retrieved February 2013