Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone



Now that increasing numbers of people are stuck at home and sheltering in place, I figured I’d do a little series. Every weekday for the duration of this intense period, I’ll post a short definition of some term in/related to aesthetics and philosophy of art. Let’s see how this goes! See them all here.

The theme this week is artworld stuff. First up:

Terms of Art #21:
museum & gallery


This guy knows the difference between museums and galleries. At your next fancy champagne party, you can be like this guy. [source]

Pronunciation: myoo-ZEE-uhm, GAL-uh-ree

Definition: Okay the reason this is interesting is because lots of people don’t really understand the difference between museums and galleries.

It’s confusing! Museums have art. Galleries have art. You can go to them sometimes for free but also sometimes not. And they both seem to have fancy champagne parties.

If we’re talking about places (typically standalone buildings), the most basic difference is that a gallery is fundamentally trying to sell art, but a museum isn’t.

Art museum – a space where art is displayed, aimed at making art available to a public audience
Some museums are owned by the government and may be free (like the Smithsonian). Some are owned privately and typically have an admission fee (like MoMA). And maybe you didn’t know, but lots of other things happen at museums, too: art conservation and restoration, educational programs, art research and study, and more.

“Gallery” has a few different meanings.

(1) gallery – also a space where art is displayed, but basically art stores
Galleries are generally smaller than museums and are owned by art dealers. They’ll have themed shows – for instance, they’ll show a bunch of photographs by one artist for a few months. (That often happens when a particular gallery/dealer represents an artist.)

museum2.jpgGalleries don’t always work this way, but it’s common. Also like they maybe aren’t trying to sell YOU art, unless for some reason multimillionaires are reading AFB… in which case HEEYYY WANNA INVEST IN A BLOG??

Okay but why open their doors to us hoi polloi then? Well, partly because art dealers are key members of artists’ hype teams, and we’re the target audience for that.

(2) gallery – an individual room within a museum
Example: “Impressionists are in the main gallery upstairs.”

(3) gallery – sometimes it just means museum… sorry
Example: The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC

Some key institutions:
The Louvre (Paris); The Metropolitan Museum of Art – “The Met” (New York City); National Palace Museum (Taipei, Taiwan); The Hermitage (St. Petersburg, Russia).
Gagosian, David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, Pace (these are all international, multi-location galleries)

Related terms:
art dealer – person whose job it is to buy/sell art

Not to be confused with…
… each other.

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