What are the differences between Art Galleries and Museums?

Both of these venues can feature plenty of art, yet differ enormously.

If you have visited any museum which focuses specifically on art, you will likely have noticed many similarities between the layout of the museum and an art gallery. 

Examples of art-based museums include London’s Tate Modern, which is just a short walk from Blackfriars tube station, and Paris’ Louvre, which is easily accessible using lines 1, 67, and 14 of the Paris Metro.

Similarities Between Art Galleries & Museums

Art is best appreciated in an open space, so both galleries and museums will try and achieve a similar atmosphere by displaying their works in a controlled setting, usually a very open space that forces visitors to concentrate their attention on the walls. 

Both galleries and museums will frequently hold events, so never think that just because you have visited a venue once you have seen everything there is to see. This is especially true of galleries, as we will mention in detail later.

Beyond this, the two types of establishments are really quite different. We’ll look at both galleries and museums individually first, which should make the comparison between them much more straightforward later on.,

Art Museums

It’s important to remember that the definition of a museum is a place “where artifacts are stored”. A museum will probably keep all of its artwork over the long term, even if it is not always on display. Art museums purchase the majority of the works they display, but they also receive charitable donations. 

It is not uncommon for museums to loan artifacts to other museums, particularly when a venue that is less art-focused acquires something of particular artistic importance. Individuals will sometimes loan their artwork to museums as well, which is fantastic if a private collector owns a piece that is of particular interest to you – listen out for exhibitions and events that feature loaned works, as they will often change throughout the year.

The Financial Aspect

The majority of museums are not profit-making entities, and so will usually rely on government funding to pay essential costs such as staff wages and maintaining the building, as well as acquiring new works for display. 

Private organizations and foundations sometimes run museums too, but again, these establishments will rarely be operated on a for-profit basis. This kind of financial support enables museums to concentrate on acquiring, caring for, and studying the history of the pieces in their collection. 

The public at large are rarely exposed to many types and styles of art, which is one of the reasons that governments are so happy to fund them – museums will often place cards next to their pieces, intended to educate the person viewing the work on the artist who created it and possibly even the genre of the piece, too.

Art Galleries

A gallery’s primary focus is quite the opposite of a museum – they are more interested in selling artwork than simply storing it for posterity. This doesn’t mean you can’t treat a gallery as you would a museum and simply visit it just to enjoy the artwork, but the key difference is that the pieces on display at a gallery are for sale. Galleries 

While museums tend to be situated in dense metropolitan areas so that as many people as possible can access the venue easily, art galleries can be found anywhere and everywhere there is commercial space available for rent, as well as on the web – online art galleries are the perfect place to find fine artists online. Some galleries can be huge, rivalling the size of many museums, whilst others can be nothing more than a single room.

How Art Galleries are Funded

Without the benefit of government subsidies, art galleries need to earn enough money from selling pieces to fund their operation if they are to be successful. Because of this, the atmosphere inside a gallery is very different from that of a museum – there is much less focus on education, although galleries will often do their best to promote new and up-and-coming artists.

A large percentage of the people who make the trip to visit a gallery do so intending to make a purchase, whereas those visiting a museum are seeking entertainment and possibly education. 

Important Differences Between the Two

Visit an art museum and you will usually find it is divided into separate areas featuring artworks of similar styles. Rooms may be dedicated to specific time periods or artists who are of particular importance to the host country of the museum. This is one reason why museums can be more popular with tourists than galleries.

Galleries tend to be more focused in the content that they put on display – a gallery may be created to promote a certain artist, for example, or it will choose to focus on a specific type of art, making it easier to promote their venue as a place to come and purchase a fantastic piece in whatever genre they opt for.

One final thing to be aware of if you are visiting a gallery is that you are not permitted to take photographs of the works on display – this is treated as making a copy of the artwork, so is not allowed. By contrast, museums have no problem with you taking as many pictures as you like when visiting their venues.

Is One Better than the Other?

No! Art galleries and museums exist for very different reasons, and the two types of venues complement each other perfectly – art sold in a gallery today could be a museum piece in the future. Both galleries and museums are well worth visiting whenever you get the chance – even if you are not looking to make a purchase.


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Written by Virily Editor

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