Middle-market galleries have faced serious competition in the global art market, from the small, alternative pop-up spaces to blue chip, mega galleries. A recent article in artnet News stated that "among the most sobering is the following reality check: the against-all-economic-odds gallery once begun with boundless ambition and maxed out credit cards is no more.... the era of undercapitalized, illiquid, labor-of-love galleries that rely mostly or exclusively on the primary market for sales is over."
Leo Castelli Gallery in 1960 with works by
Frank Stella, Jasper Johns, Lee Bontecou, Edward Higgins, and Robert Rauschenberg
All galleries, not just mid-market galleries, have had to adjust to the rapidly changing global art market by taking steps to reinvent themselves. No longer is the 'Leo Castelli' model, in which dealers nurture their represented artists' careers through stipends, studio space, and individual marketing strategies, the main focus. According to the TEFAF Art Market Report, 72% of private collectors are acquiring work from dealers (over any other art market professional) and the majority of these buyers are working with dealers selling at the mid-market level (from $500K - $10Million in sales). Galleries are taking into consideration that artists careers are just as important as cultivating collectors and using their expertise to place work in collections. While primary market sales still remain a profit stream, making up 48% of dealer sales in 2015 according to the TEFAF Art Market Report, dealers have found alternative ways to reach new collector bases and utilize their art and finance expertise to keep up with this changing market. Galleries are participating in more art fairs and marketing their available works online to make themselves more accessible to a new generation of collectors, while also facilitating private sales and using their expertise to advise more seasoned collectors on crafting curated, investment-worthy collections.
Read Pt. 1 in our series: How Mid-Market Galleries are Shaking Up the Art World