Public galleries

Commercial art galleries manage over 16,000 relationships with visual artists

The ABS estimated that there were 514 commercial art galleries operating in Australia during 1999-2000. This included 31 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) art centres and 483 other commercial art galleries.

These galleries provided over 16,000 on-going ‘representations’ for visual artists.[1] The average number of artists represented by ATSI art centres was 93, compared to 29 artists for other commercial art galleries.

In 1999–2000, commercial art gallery businesses had total sales of artworks of $218 million. Two thirds of this ($145 million) related to commission income from the sale of works on behalf of others.  One third related to sales of works owned by the gallery.

Represented artists shared in over $100m in commission income generated through the sale of their artwork by commercial galleries in that year. That is equivalent to over $6,000 per represented artist.

The ABS reports that in 2007-08 commercial art galleries charged a higher average commission for the sale of Indigenous visual artworks (40 per cent), compared to the work of non-Indigenous Australian visual artists (29 percent) and those from overseas (17 percent) in 1999-2000.

[1]   Artists represented on an ongoing basis are defined as the number of artists who have an agreement with a commercial art gallery to represent them by regularly displaying or promoting the sale of their artworks. This figure includes double counting as a commercial art gallery could represent more than one visual artist. As such it is not a representation of the total visual artist population.