First, I’ll address a few of the similarities of art galleries and museums. You go to both to appreciate and learn about art, each frequently hosts events, and the art is displayed in a controlled setting, often open rooms without much in them in order to highlight the art on the walls. When looking at art, the atmosphere is important and museums and galleries try to achieve this same goal. Though there are these similarities, the two places are not the same. Many people use the two terms interchangeably, but there are a variety of reasons why they’re different.

Changing exhibitions

In a museum, there are consistent exhibits that the museum owns and always has on display. Museums rarely sell the items they own and if they do, it’s infrequent. Some parts of a museum change throughout the year, usually because a private collection of art is touring and the museum is allowed to display it for a few weeks. An art gallery, on the other hand, constantly changes its exhibitions and has very few pieces it keeps on a permanent basis. Galleries always feature different artists and rotate the pieces of art shown.

Profit from the art

The exhibitions of a gallery are always changing due to the fact that a gallery profits from the art it displays. A gallery will either independently purchase art to sell to patrons or feature artists that are selling their art and then the gallery can achieve a profit from those exhibits as well. In museums, they rarely sell their pieces and instead keep them on display for patrons to enjoy. Museums wish to exclusively educate visitors and have some other source of funding (like an entrance fee) than from selling the pieces they feature, while galleries need to generate their own funds to stay in business.

Different types of ownership

Usually, a museum is owned by a local government or organization and not a single individual, which is why many museums are free or have a low entrance fee. Galleries are more often owned by individuals and are private. Typically, the person who runs a gallery has to create and fund the gallery on their own, while museums often change who’s in charge and are run by a board of directors.

Type of art

Many museums contain various types of art that are separated into different categories. In a gallery, there are often specific types of art kept there. For example, HG Contemporary is a contemporary art gallery, while a traditional museum features art from various time periods throughout history. Galleries focus on a specific type of art often because it’s the type of art the owner is most knowledgeable about or it makes it easier to attract a specific group of people looking to buy or view that style of art.

Visitors’ goals

A final difference between the two is what the visitors’ goals are for going to the museum or gallery. When you’re visiting a museum, it’s purely to view the art and educate yourself about it. However, while people visiting galleries may be going to simply view art, a lot of people visit in order to find a piece of art they’d like to purchase. Many galleries are educational in addition to a place to purchase art, but educating visitors is not their sole purpose.