Do’s & Don’ts of Visiting Art Galleries

Most people have a limited amount of time to spend in art galleries which can make gallery tours difficult, especially in a city like New York where there are so many art galleries to cover. However, there are some things you can (and some you should not) do to maximize your gallery visiting experience when you do get there.


  • Purchase and save gallery publications and catalogs if you are interested in an exhibit.
  • Visit a gallery numerous times to get a feel for the kinds of work they show.
  • Attend gallery openings and talk to artists and collectors about the exhibition and gallery.
  • Give your name and address to be placed on the gallery mailing list.
  • Inquire about art fairs in which the gallery participates.
  • Ask questions – don’t be shy.
  • Read the wall text or information about the exhibit on the front counter.
  • Feel free to ask for a price of a particular work and to write it down or keep it in your records so that you can keep track of not just the artwork you like but also of how much it costs.
  • Negotiate in purchasing a work of art. You may be able to get a discount.


  • Be intimidated by the people behind the front desk. They are usually young and just doing their entry-level jobs.
  • Discount a gallery simply because you don’t like what you see on one visit. Galleries have huge inventories of material that you do not see hanging in their exhibition space, and often you will find that by visiting during a future exhibit or by making a private viewing appointment you will find some artwork you like in your price range.
  • Feel that you must visit a gallery whose programme does not appeal to you, or one in which you don’t feel comfortable, even if that gallery is popular or well-known. There are many other galleries out there and one to suit every personality or particular taste.
  • Make strong, derogatory comments about the artwork unless you personally know everyone in the room. It can turn out to be terribly embarrassing when the artist whose work you have just criticized is standing right beside you!
  • Though the gallery would like to give each visitor personal attention one should not assume that the gallery director or salesperson has endless time to discuss the merits of a work of art. After all, they are there to sell as well as to educate. Be respectful of their time.
  • Ask a dealer what he or she paid for the piece now up for sale at the gallery. They will generally not tell you, and it just creates ill will. You may, however, ask where the dealer purchased the work of art and the ownership history (provenance) of the piece.
  • Try to negotiate delivery or shipping charges. Galleries are not trying to make money on these items — it is simple a fixed cost. You should assume it is part of the cost of the item you are purchasing.
  • Look at art based solely on the prices. A client once announced in the middle of a gallery that he did not care who did the paintings, but that he was just going to walk around the room and point out things he liked and the gallery director was to just read off the prices. This was ignorant behavior on the client’s part as the value of a work of art is largely determined by the name and reputation of the artist. As well, this was offensive to the gallery director who is an art professional and spends his or her life studying works of art. Art collecting is about more than a price tag.