Art Galleries

  • Post last modified:23 February 2023
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Introduction to Art Galleries

Art Gallery is a building or space for the exhibition of art, usually visual art. Art Gallery can be public or private. Painting are the most commonly displayed art objects, however sculpture, decorative arts, furniture, textiles, costume, drawings, pastels, watercolours, collages, prints, artists’ books, photographs and installation art are also regularly shown.

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 refer to the commercial enterprises for the  sale of art.

However, both types of gallery may host travelling exhibits or temporary exhibitions including art borrowed from elsewhere. Works on paper, such as drawings, pastels, water-colors, 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 large art galleries own more works than they have room to display. The rest are held in reserve collections, on or off-site.

Types of Art Galleries

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.

A contemporary gallery is commercial or privately-funded and usually has a second-tier status positioned between the first-tier status of a national, state-run or corporate museum, and the third-tier of minor galleries which include artist-run galleries, retail galleries, and artist’s co- operatives.

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 centres. 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.

Commercial galleries are for-profit, privately owned businesses dealing in artworks by contemporary artists. Galleries run for the public good by cities, churches, art collectives, not-for-profit organizations, and local or national governments are usually termed Non-Profit Galleries.

Many of these, such as the Tata Gallery have an aspect of charity and can be arranged around a Trust or estate. Galleries run by artists are sometimes known as Artist Run Initiatives, and may be temporary or otherwise different from the traditional gallery format.

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 crated and will frequently or usually include as many artists as possible. Most art professionals are able to identify them on an artist’s resume.

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.

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.

There are a number of online art galleries that have been developed independently of the support of any individual museum. Many of these 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.

Top Art Galleries

In this list, India’s top Art Galleries doesn’t include those with the highest annual income, but those with the most integrity: galleries which deserve credit for the renaissance of Indian Art.

Pandol Art Gallery, Mumbai – The Pandol Art Gallery in Mumbai is the soul & conscience of Indian Art. The gallery does not care about the fame of an artist. It cares about Integrity & talent. For instance, if Pandol refuses to feature a famous artist, the artist must introspect if he’s sold out.

When Pandol features a complete unknown, there’s a good chance he will be the next Picasso. If there is an artist who has been overlookeddespite having talent in abundance, Pandol is the place that will give him the recognition he deserves.

Every Indian artist measures his/her success with Pandol’s willingness to feature them; such is the unassailable repute of Pandol.

Chemould Art Gallery, Mumbai – Established in 1963 by the Gandhy family, the Chemould Art Gallery has the distinction of being the pioneer in patronizing contemporary & modernist art in India. At a time when tribal & spiritual art dominated Indian Art markets, the Gandhys dared to exhibit pariah artists of the time: Raza, Hebbar & Husain.

Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi – Popularly called VAG, the Vadehra Art Gallery is the premier publicist of Indian Art. VAG was among the first galleries that promoted art as an affordable indulgence for every financial background. VAG also made it possible for the starving Indian artist to survive solely on art as they focussed on selling works in every price range, from a few thousands to a few million.

Dhoomimal Gallery, New Delhi – As an artistic institution, the Dhoomimal Art Gallery surpasses all others. The gallery was started as pure indulgence by Ram Babu Jain in 1936 to meet & chat with artists and have them display their paintings in his vacant lot.

At a time when a market for contemporary art was non-existent, the Dhoomimal Gallery stood for art for the sake of aesthetics. The gallery did not represent the greater good or any deep philosophy; it only represented & continues to represent art at its most illogical, decadent & unrestrained.

Kumar Art Gallery, New Delhi – The life & work of Virendra Kumar Jain, founder of the Kumar Art Gallery often finds comparison with that of the Medici family of Florence during the European Renaissance.

Most struggling artists of the mid-nineteen hundreds owe their survival & success to Jain and his enterprising Kumar Art Gallery. His intuitive selection of art works that no gallery would dare touch made him a maverick & patron saint for Indian art forms like Tantra & Post-Modernism.

His foresight & vision made Kumar Art Gallery a favourite with international collectors like John Rockefeller, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Norman Rockwell, Shirley MacLaine & Georgia O’Keeffe.

How the Museum Objects Are Acquired?

Field Work

The most important way to acquire the objects is through research and fieldwork. Items gained from excavations, regional and local tours, etc. are gathered to bring them to the museums. These include objects of historical importance both in geographical and cultural terms.

Gift or Donations

The museums also get their collections through gifts or donations from private sources. These objects are works of arts and artefacts of historical and ethnological value. In India many traditional rulers donated their private collections to the museums.


Another way of collecting the objects for museums is through purchase. It, however, is subject to the availability of finances. Most of the objects which are worth collecting for the museums command high prices for which the museums have to compete in the open market.


Sometimes the museums receive objects through transfer from one museum to another. The criteria for doing so can be various.

For example, some of the objects acquired by the British museums from India during the colonial period were returned after independence. Some objects are transferred from State to the National Museums and vice versa depending upon the nature of the objects.


Museums regularly use this channel to augment their collections. It, however, does not involve the transfer of title and the lender museum gets its objects back after a definite period. It is a two way process and benefits all the museums.

After the acquisition the objects are accessioned on the advice of the curator. While the acquisition is an indiscriminate process, accession is done on the basis of set standards.

Accession involves “the transfer of the titles of objects, through defined procedures, to the museums or the registration of objects held-in-trust for governmental agencies.”

After accessioning, that is, acceptance of ownership and responsibility, the museum is obliged to securely manage the objects.

Roles and Responsibilities of Museums and Art Galleries

Museums have many roles to play in modern times. They utilize the national resources and exist for public benefit. Preservation, educating the public and entertainment arc some of the functions a museum performs.


Museums are meant to shoulder the cultural responsibilities of a nation. That Function as custodians of the natural, cultural, scientific and technological heritage of a people.

The material remains of the development of the earth and of human society, the arts and crafts of a country, etc. are housed in the museums.

In India, the Archaeological Survey of India and the State Departments of Archaeology have the responsibility for excavation and preservation of historical sites in rural as well as urban areas.


The museums also play an educative role through the collection, conservation and interpretation of the objects of historical and cultural interests.

The ICOM also recognizes the contribution of the museums in educating the public by: increasing the awareness of cultural heritage, transmitting the essence of the evolving culture to new generations, raising the awareness of other cultures.

In our country, many museums, apart from educating the public by displaying their collections and organizing special exhibits also give practical training courses on the ancient arts and crafts of the country. For example:

The Salarjung Museum Hyderabad’s Nizams have made a fantastic collection in their museum. It has a variety of objects that excite one’s curiosity. The range of its collection is amazingly diverse; a variety of clocks is just one example.

The Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad conducts courses on bronze casting, lapidary work, woodwork, Bidri artwork and tribal embroidery.

Archaeology Museum at Baroda organizes temporary exhibitions whenever a new excavation is done in order to educate the trainee teachers and higher level students.

Birla Industrial and Technology Museum, Calcutta and Visveshriya Industrial and Technology Museum, Bangalore conduct short term training courses for school teachers in science and technology and museums.

In BAL Bhavan, New Delhi, children are given instructions in arts, painting and dance.


In the modern period another responsibility of the museums is to entertain public in order to augment the domestic and foreign tourism.

The exoticism and the attractive arrangement of museum objects fascinate the visitors and also satisfy their urge for knowing about their past in case of domestic tourists and about host cultures in the case of foreign tourists. Later in this Unit we shall discuss the role of the museums with regard to tourism.

Museums, Art Galleries and Tourism

Museums have the potential to play an important role in tourism sector. The touring children can perhaps be the largest clientele group because the museums offer both education and entertainment.

Even for the adults they are a great source of information about the history, culture and tradition of a locality or country. People can discover their past through the museums.

To the foreign visitors the museums offer detailed information about their destination country. They can be supportive to the service sectors as the people visiting the museums use conveyances and visit the restaurants and shops nearby.

The promotion of tourism through museums, however, has to be a concerted effort. The museum management should bring out brochures and handbooks listing their collections and giving some information about them.

In addition, photographs of the objects should be sold to the visiting tourists so as to leave them with a memory of the visit. The tourist agencies should give the museums a proper and prominent place in their itineraries for the tourists emphasizing the educational and entertainment roles of the museums.

The tourist guides should be knowledgeable about the museum collections. They should also possess some information about the history and organization of the museums themselves.

It is only through the joint efforts of all concerned that a meaningful and frequent interaction can develop between the tourists and museums.

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