Art I Want You: Commercial Art Galleries

Published May 4 2017 by Deborah Carver, Director

In Halifax, as in other communities, there are a number of commercial art galleries.

It often is not understood that there are businesses that exist in the context of the visual arts. This is more of a familiar idea in music, film, publishing, etc. As commercial art galleries, we work principally with professional, contemporary artists who make original art. A professional artist is someone who is educated in visual art, and makes art as a dedicated occupation, not as a retirement or hobbyist activity. Original art means something made by the hand of the artist. That used to be easy to determine and may be less so now with digital production; that’s an interesting discussion for another time.

There are various points of contact between professional artists and the public  – public galleries such as the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the Mary Black Gallery for fine craft; University galleries; co-op galleries and artist run centres, private studios, and us, commercial galleries. Our primary motivation is to support, sell and promote the work of professional artists to ensure that they can continue making more work. This is distinct from the institutions and universities that do not have a mandate specifically to promote the work of Halifax, Nova Scotian or even Atlantic artists.

Although we are businesses, we are ALMOST not for profit. With a few exceptions, 50% of the sale of an artwork goes to the artist; 50% goes to the gallery, and that is used to market the artworks within the gallery space, online, at events, going to Art Fairs. By my general calculations, of that 50%: 20% pays fixed costs like rent and insurance; 20% pays staff; 10% is left for marketing and profit, if we are very lucky!

Our ongoing message to customers and clients is that the very best way to support art making is to make a personal investment, and consider buying local. In our businesses, this means buying a piece of art. In other art forms, it may be about buying a ticket to a live theatre or music performance.

We need people to come into our galleries – in person, ideally, or online – and to make a personal investment of time and money. James Kirkpatrick and David Sorensen’s exhibitions are currently hanging in the gallery (until June 7th), so please drop in! We would love to give you a personal walk-through.  

Studio 21