An art museum or art gallery is a building or space for the exhibition of art, usually visual art. Museums can be public or private, but what distinguishes a museum is the ownership of a collection. Paintings are the most commonly displayed art objects; however, sculpture, decorative arts, furniture, textiles, costume, drawings, pastels, watercolors, collages, prints, artists' books, photographs, and installation art are also regularly shown. Although primarily concerned with providing a space to show works of visual art, art galleries are sometimes used to host other artistic activities, such as performance art, music concerts, or poetry readings.
- 1 Types of galleries
- 2 History
- 3 Visual art not shown in a gallery
- 4 Architecture
- 5 Cultural aspects
- 6 Notable art museums
- 7 Online museums
- 8 See also
- 9 References
Types of galleries
The term is used for both public galleries, which are non-profit or publicly owned museums that display selected collections of art. On the other hand private galleries refers to the commercial enterprises for the sale of art. However, both types of gallery may host traveling exhibits or temporary exhibitions including art borrowed from elsewhere.
In broad terms, in North American usage the word gallery alone often implies a private gallery, while a public gallery is more likely to be described as an art museum. In British and Commonwealth usage, the word gallery alone implies a public gallery, while a private or commercial gallery will be distinguished using those terms, and the word museum alone is generally understood to refer to institutions holding collections of historic, archaeological or scientific artefacts, rather than of fine art.
Galleries in museums
The rooms in museums where art is displayed for the public are often referred to as galleries as well, with a room dedicated to Ancient Egyptian art often being called the Egyptian Gallery, for example.
Contemporary art gallery
The term contemporary art gallery refers usually to a privately owned for-profit commercial gallery. These galleries are often found clustered together in large urban centers. Smaller cities are usually home to at least one gallery, but they may also be found in towns or villages, and remote areas where artists congregate, e.g. the Taos art colony and St Ives, Cornwall.
Contemporary art galleries are usually open to the general public without charge; however, some are semi-private. They usually profit by taking a portion of art sales; from 25% to 50% is typical. There are also many non-profit or collective galleries. Some galleries in cities like Tokyo charge the artists a flat rate per day, though this is considered distasteful in some international art markets. Galleries often hang solo shows. Curators often create group shows that say something about a certain theme, trend in art, or group of associated artists. Galleries sometimes choose to represent artists exclusively, giving them the opportunity to show regularly.
A gallery's definition can also include the artist cooperative or artist-run space, which often (in North America and Western Europe) operates as a space with a more democratic mission and selection process. Such galleries typically have a board of directors and a volunteer or paid support staff that select and curate shows by committee, or some kind of similar process to choose art that typically lacks commercial ends.
A vanity gallery is an art gallery that charges fees from artists in order to show their work, much like a vanity press does for authors. The shows are not legitimately curated and will frequently or usually include as many artists as possible. Most art professionals are able to identify them on an artist's resume.
Apart from public art, designed from the start for public display, large and expensive works of art have generally been commissioned by religious institutions, who normally have wanted these to be on display in temples or churches, rulers, the social elite, or civic bodies. Much art in private ownership has long been available for viewing by some portion of the public. In classical times religious institutions began to include a function as art galleries, with Roman collectors of engraved gems (including Julius Caesar) and other objects donating their collections to temples; how easy it was to get to view these small items is rather unclear. In Europe, from the late medieval period onwards, many areas of royal palaces, castles and the houses of the social elite were often generally accessible, and large parts of the art collections of such people could often be seen, either by anybody, or by those able to pay a small price, or those wearing the correct clothes, regardless of who they were, as at the Palace of Versailles, where the appropriate extra accessories (silver shoe buckles and a sword) could be hired from shops outside. The treasuries of cathedrals and large churches, or parts of them, were often set out out for public display. Many of the grander English country houses could be toured by the respectable for a tip to the housekeeper, during the long periods when the family were not in residence.
Special arrangements were made to allow the public to see many royal or private collections placed in galleries, as with most of the paintings of the Orleans Collection, which were housed in a wing of the Palais Royal in Paris and could be visited for most of the 18th century. In Italy the art tourism of the Grand Tour became a major industry from the Renaissance onwards, and governments and cities made efforts to make their key works accessible. The Capitoline Museums began in 1471 with a donation of classical sculpture to the city of Rome by the Papacy, while the Vatican Museums, whose collections are still owned by the Popes, trace their foundation to 1506, when the recently discovered Laocoön and His Sons was put on public display. A series of museums on different subjects were opened over subsequent centuries, and many of the buildings of the Vatican were purpose-built as galleries. The Uffizi in Florence opened entirely as a gallery in 1765, though this function had been gradually taking the building over from the original civil servants' offices for a long time before. The British Royal Collection remains distinct, but large donations such as the Old Royal Library were made from it to the British Museum, established in 1753. The building now occupied by the Prado in Madrid was built before the French Revolution for the public display of parts of the royal art collection, and similar royal galleries open to the public existed in Vienna, Munich and other capitals. The royal treasury of the Kingdom of Saxony, the Grünes Gewölbe, was opened to the public in the 1720s. The opening of the Musée du Louvre during the French Revolution (in 1793) as a public museum for much of the former French royal collection certainly marked an important stage in the development of public access to art, transferring ownership to a republican state, but was a continuation of trends already well established.
Privately established museums began to be founded from the Renaisssance onwards, often based around a collection of the cabinet of curiousities type, such as the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, opened in 1683 to display a bequest to Oxford University, and the British Museum in London (1753), after bequests to the state.
Visual art not shown in a gallery
Works on paper, such as drawings, pastels, watercolors, prints, and photographs are typically not permanently displayed for conservation reasons. Instead, public access to these materials is provided by a dedicated print study room located within the museum. Murals generally remain where they have been painted, although many have been removed to galleries. Various forms of 20th-century art, such as land art and performance art, also usually exist outside a gallery. Photographic records of these kinds of art are often shown in galleries, however. Most museum and large art galleries own more works than they have room to display. The rest are held in reserve collections, on or off-site.
Similar to an art gallery is the sculpture garden (or "sculpture park"), which presents sculpture in an outdoor space. Sculpture installation has grown in popularity, whereby temporary sculptures are installed in open spaces during events like festivals.
The architectural form of the art gallery was established by Sir John Soane with his design for the Dulwich Picture Gallery in 1817. This established the gallery as a series of interconnected rooms with largely uninterrupted wall spaces for hanging pictures and indirect lighting from skylights or roof lanterns.
The late 19th century saw a boom in the building of public art galleries in Europe and America, becoming an essential cultural feature of larger cities. More art galleries rose up alongside museums and public libraries as part of the municipal drive for literacy and public education.
In the middle and late 20th century earlier architectural styles employed for art museums (such as the Beaux-Arts style of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City or the Gothic and Renaissance Revival architecture of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum) were increasingly replaced with more modern styles, such as Deconstructivism. Examples of this trend include the Guggenheim Museum in New York City by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by Frank Gehry, Centre Pompidou-Metz by Shigeru Ban, and the redesign of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art by Mario Botta. Some critics[which?] argue that these galleries are self-defeating, in that their dramatic interior spaces distract the eye from the paintings they are supposed to exhibit.
Many art museums throughout history have been designed with a cultural purpose or been subject to political intervention. In particular National Art Galleries have been thought to incite feelings of nationalism. This has occurred in both democratic and non-democratic countries, although authoritarian regimes have historically exercised more control over administration of art museums. Ludwig Justi was for example dismissed as director of The Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery) in Berlin in 1933 by the new Nazi authorities for not being politically suitable.
Since the 1970s a number of political theorists and social commentators have pointed to the political implications of art museums and social relations. Pierre Bourdieu, for instance, argued that in spite the apparent freedom of choice in the arts, people's artistic preferences (such as classical music, rock, traditional music) strongly tie in with their social position. So called Cultural capital is a major factor in social mobility (for example, getting a higher-paid, higher-status job). The argument states that certain art museums are aimed at perpetuating aristocratic and upper class ideals of taste and excludes segments of society without the social opportunities to develop such interest. The fine arts thus perpetuate social inequality by creating divisions between different social groups. This argument also ties in with the Marxist theory of mystification and elite culture.
Furthermore, certain art gallerias, such as the National Gallery in London and the Louvre in Paris are situated in buildings of considerable emotional impact. The Louvre in Paris is for instance located in the former Royal Castle of the ancient regime, and is thus clearly designed with a political agenda. It has been argued that such buildings create feelings of subjugation and adds to the mystification of fine arts.
Notable art museums
Museums with major web presences
Most art museums have only limited online collections, but a few museums, as well as some libraries and government agencies, have developed substantial online catalogues. Museums, libraries and government agencies with substantial online collections of prints, photographs, and other works on paper include:
- The British Museum has 2,045,291 objects available online, of which 715,184 have one or more images (as of August 2011).
Museums, libraries and government agencies with substantial online collections with more focus on paintings and sculpture include:
- National Portrait Gallery, with over 185,000 works, including both painted and photographic portraits 
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with over 400 separate galleries, each containing several hundred works. 
- MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art), with nearly 50,000 works from collections of painting, drawing, print, sculpture, film, photography and performance art
- Boston Museum of Fine Arts, with over 330,000 works, most with images. Good for prints.
- Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, with over 85,000 works
- Harvard Art Museums, with over 81,000 works, about half of which have very low resolution images.
- Louvre, with over 80,000 works in various databases, with a large number of images, as well as another 140,000 drawings.
- National Gallery of Art, with over 108,000 works catalogued, though with only 6,000 images.
- (French) The Mona Lisa Database of French Museums — Joconde *(from the French Ministry of Culture)
Online art collections
There are a number of online art catalogues and galleries that have been developed independently of the support of any individual museum. Many of these, like American Art Gallery, are attempts to develop galleries of artwork that are encyclopedic or historical in focus, while others are commercial efforts to sell the work of contemporary artists.
A limited number of such sites have independent importance in the art world. The large auction houses, such as Sotheby's, Bonhams and Christie's maintain large online databases of art which they have auctioned or are auctioning. Bridgeman Art Library serves as a central source of reproductions of artwork, with access limited to museums, art dealers and other professionals or professional organizations.
There are also online galleries that have been developed by a collaboration of museums and galleries that are more interested with the categorization of art. They are interested in the potential use of folksonomy within museums and the requirements for post-processing of terms that have been gathered, both to test their utility and to deploy them in useful ways.
The steve.museum is one example of a site that is experimenting with this collaborative philosophy. The participating institutions include the Guggenheim Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
- Art exhibition
- Artist cooperative
- Artist-run initiative
- Artist-run space
- Arts centre
- Black cube art museum
- Contemporary art gallery
- List of most visited art museums in the world
- List of museums
- National Gallery (disambiguation)
- Vanity gallery
- Virtual museum
- wiktionary:art gallery
- "Investing in Your Career, A Worthwhile Risk?". New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). Retrieved June 16, 2012.
- Peter-Klaus Schuster: Die Alte Nationalgalerie. DuMont, Köln 2003, ISBN 3-8321-7370-6.[page needed]
- P., Bourdieu, Distinction (1979), translated into English by R., Nice (1984), ISBN 0-7100-9609-7. Especially chapter one "Aristochracy of Culture".
- Le Palais-Royal des Orléans (1692-1793): Les travaux entrepris par le Régent at the Wayback Machine (archived July 7, 2007).
- "Prints & Photographs Online Catalog". Library of Congress. Retrieved June 16, 2012.
- "British Museum collection database online". Britishmuseum.org. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
- National Portrait Gallery collections
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art galleries
- "Databases | Louvre Museum". Louvre.fr. Retrieved June 16, 2012.
- "National Gallery of Art - The Collection". Nga.gov. Retrieved June 16, 2012.