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art gallery

Sector Spotlight: Art Galleries

Read this to find out more about the gallery sector before you open your own.

As more Canadians visit galleries and engage in art-based activities, it could be the perfect time to fulfil your dreams of opening a gallery.

Facts and figures

  • There are approximately 1,390 art dealers across Canada
  • The average annual revenue for an SME in this sector is roughly CA $314,500
  • Just less than 75% of art gallery businesses are profitable
  • The number of visitors to public art galleries in Canada has doubled over the last 25 years
  • In 2016, 5 million people visited an art gallery
  • 13% of Canadians 15 years or older - 3.8 million people – are engaged in visual art making activities


Canada is home to many prestigious galleries, exhibiting both national and international art, from contemporary to native art. In 1992, almost 30 years ago, a mere 20% of the Canadian population had visited a public gallery.

Fast-forward to 2016, that figure has almost doubled, with 39% of Canadians attending a public gallery throughout the year. There has also been a rise in the number of youths and adults engaging in creative art-related activities.

For entrepreneurs keen to break onto the scene, a passion and knowledge of art is essential. If you don’t have a degree or educational background in art history, you should gain experience working in an art gallery, or volunteering at a museum.


Find out if there are any other art galleries within the area or in neighbouring towns and research the style of art they sell. Are you in a tourist town? If so, try to find local, unique artists and secure exclusivity so their art is only sold in your gallery.

You should consider which online galleries will be your main competition. Is there a genre or period of art that you intend to focus on selling? If so, find all the web galleries selling this type of art and consider how you can offer a different or improved service.

The art world can be a close-knit community of very creative and like-minded people; you don’t want to rub your competitors up the wrong way. Striving to have healthy, mutually beneficial relationships with them may increase your contacts and profits.

Additional services

Many gallery owners rely on offering additional services to ensure their daily profit margins remain high. Including a cafe will increase spending and encourage potential buyers to spend longer in your store before committing to buy a piece of art.

Art-related amenities, such as framing or photography, may also work well in your gallery. Research the local demographic of the area and tailor your services to suit their needs. You should consider what your competitors are offering and find a USP.

Consider your own skills and how to utilise these to create extra revenue streams for your gallery. Do you have a natural flair for painting or are you great at craft-making? Consider setting up regular classes or experiences that you can host in your store.

Essential skills

You need to have a knowledge and passion for art, and a talent for finding unique artists. Great communication and customer service skills will be beneficial in keeping your business profitable; customers may ask for your advice before buying a piece.

Tech skills will help when creating a website or hire a web designer who can create a great online presence for your gallery. Start out selling art online to get a feel for the sector; this will reduce your overheads and you won’t be under pressure to pay rent.

Your negotiation skills must be on point; most gallery owners take a commission for each piece of art sold. You will need to make sure your commission structure is fair for the artist but will earn enough income to support growing your gallery business.

Krystena Griffin

About the author

Krystena Griffin writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other industry publications.


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