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Opening an art gallery can be a great way to channel your love for artistic work. It allows you to connect with like-minded people and share your appreciation for artistic work with the general population. While being passionate about art is great, you must also consider the legal and commercial requirements of opening an art gallery. In this article, we set out four primary considerations to think about before opening an art gallery.

1. Location

Choose the location of your art gallery carefully. Various factors should be considered when selecting the location, including:

  • cost;
  • local demographics;
  • available facilities;
  • surrounding establishments; and
  • transport options.

It is a good idea to begin your art gallery by hiring an exhibition room. There are various online platforms to help you to find available spaces, including Creative Spaces and Art Almanac. Once you have an established customer base, you can consider buying premises or entering a long-term commercial lease.

To optimise your success, keep your target market in mind when choosing the location of your art gallery. For example, if you wish to attract young professionals, consider spaces near business premises.

Opening your art gallery near bars and restaurants that attract your target market is a good idea as it can draw customers to your business. Public transport and parking options are also key factors that can help secure a large customer base. Organising events can be a great way to draw an audience to your art gallery. For example, you could hold a fundraiser or an art masterclass.

2. Online Presence

Having an online presence is essential to the establishment and growth of your art gallery. This can be done through a website and social media. An online presence can help you reach potential customers and promote upcoming exhibitions and events.

When creating your website, consider your legal obligations. Your website will likely need:

If you plan to showcase the work you are exhibiting on your website, you will need written consent from the artists to ensure you are not infringing their copyright.

You should also clearly outline who owns the intellectual property (IP) in your website terms of use. The same applies to social media; if you want to showcase the work of artists on your social media profile, ensure you have their written consent.

3. Artists Royalty Scheme

The Australian government introduced the Visual Artists Royalty Scheme to ensure artists receive ongoing compensation for their artworks. This scheme may entitle artists to a 5% royalty when their work is sold through an art gallery. Being aware of the Artists Royalty Scheme will help you pay artists accordingly.

For an artwork to be subject to resale royalty rights, it must:

  1. be an original piece of visual art;
  2. not be a mass-produced item, a building, model or plan of a building, a circuit layout or a manuscript; and
  3. be resold for more than $1,000.

The Copyright Agency manages the Artists Royalty Scheme. All sales of over $1,000 must be reported to the Copyright Agency. Artists can collect their royalty payment:

  • from the agency;
  • by incurring a 10% fee; or
  • from the gallery itself.

4. Copyright

Artworks are subject to copyright protection under the Copyright Act. They have both economic and moral rights.

The following rights are attached to artworks:

Economic Rights Economic rights include the rights of:

  • reproduction: the right to reproduce the work (e.g. photocopy, scan);
  • publication: publish the work online and in hard copy; and
  • communication: make it available to the general public.
Moral Rights Moral rights include the rights to:

  • right to the attribution of authorship: the right to have your work acknowledged as yours;
  • right not to have authorship falsely attributed: the right not to have your work attributed to someone else; and
  • right of integrity of authorship: the right against the derogatory treatment of your work.


Economic rights can be transferred, while moral rights always stay with the artist. However, artists can consent to an infringement of their moral rights.

Generally, artists own the copyright of their works. When a buyer buys an artwork, they buy the physical asset and not the copyright. For example, if an artist sells a painting, the buyer owns the canvas with the painting but not the right to reproduce the painting. Reproducing the artwork by scanning the picture and printing it on t-shirts would be an infringement of the artist’s copyright.

To avoid conflict, it is crucial that you frame the ownership of copyright clearly through written agreements.

Key Takeaways

Opening an art gallery is a great way to share your appreciation for art with the general public. It will allow you to connect with like-minded people and showcase the hard work of talented artists.

Accordingly, it is essential to be mindful of the legal and commercial aspects of owning a business to ensure the success of your art gallery. If you have any questions, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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