Introduction to Gallery Administration and Operations

Commercial galleries, one of the art world’s core business models, vary in scale and scope. Their size largely depends on the calibre of the artists and estates they represent, with the top of the field dominated by a handful of international blue-chip galleries whose teams are spread across the globe.

Credit: Ricardo Gomez Angel

The marketplace is shaped by the continuing success of these mega-dealers, who emerged in the 1980s and 1990s and consolidated their brands through the development of international gallery spaces. This has resulted in a top-heavy employment, where the largest firms – who represent the biggest employers – continue to expand their global teams and hire more in-house expertise to offer clients a fuller service. 

In these galleries, executive leadership roles usually span multiple locations and take responsibility for spearheading global programming strategy, fairs, artists, and communications. However, on a local level, the individual outposts of each gallery tend to operate as separate entities, requiring the support of, in some instances, an extensive staff beyond the sales team.  

Due to the varying scale and structure of commercial galleries, this article (and our 2023 SML Art Market Salary Report) highlight the handful of job titles we feel are most representative of the core roles found in most galleries. 

Commercial Gallery (Administration and Operations) Salaries in the United Kingdom. Source: SML Art Market Salary Report 2023 

A gallery assistant is a common entry-level role. Though primarily administrative, a candidate may also be expected to perform front-of-house duties. Roles that require a few years of experience include sales assistant and executive assistant to the senior directors, partners, or owner. These roles are often client- facing and represent a natural next step for employees
looking to pursue a career in sales. 

An archivist may be responsible for organising and maintaining records of the gallery’s collection, ensuring the preservation and accessibility of historical documents and artworks. Whilst a researcher conducts in-depth investigations into artists, artworks, and market trends, providing valuable insights for curatorial decisions and business strategies. Depending on commercial priorities and individual interests, these roles offer the opportunity to specialise within each field or take on broader responsibilities that might extend to publications or exhibitions. 

Exhibitions teams oversee the planning and execution of exhibitions, ensuring a seamless and engaging presentation of artworks. Those responsible for communications will handle the gallery’s public relations, marketing, and outreach efforts, shaping its public image and promoting events. Typically, an artist liaison will establish and nurture relationships between the gallery and its artists, facilitating effective and mutually beneficial collaboration on both sides. 

Credit: Xavier von Erlach 

Gallery manager positions have mostly disappeared from the large gallery networks, with management roles often separated into specialised departments dedicated to the operation, presentation and upkeep of the space. For example, qualified individuals may be employed to handle budgets, expenses and future forecasting to ensure sustainability and growth.  

Given the complexity and specificity of expertise required to manage the logistics of transporting and installing artworks, most galleries also tend to hire dedicated resources to oversee these tasks. Ranging from junior to senior, the size of this team is dictated by the complexity and frequency of the gallery’s needs. 
Adept at AV/lighting design, wall mounting, and spatial arrangement technicians play a crucial role in augmenting the visitor experience through aesthetic impact.  

With meticulous attention to the documentation and movements of inventory, registrars play a key role in risk management, handling insurance, and maintaining precise records, contributing significantly to the gallery’s organisational efficiency and collection preservation. Registrars also facilitate loans, negotiating agreements and complying with legal requirements for seamless exchanges on acquisition, sale and exhibition. In a layered organisation, an operations director will likely oversee the work of registrars, technicians and the daily running of the gallery, as well as exhibition and art fair coordination.  

That said, mid-tier galleries continue to employ gallery managers, who are key to their day-to-day running. In these contexts, Gallery managers hold a broad range of responsibilities ranging from essential office administration to financial control and staff management. They will often bridge the gap between entry-level staff and directors or gallery owners. Given the wide variance in their responsibilities, these roles tend to have a relatively wide salary range. 

Commercial Gallery (Administration and Operations) Salaries in the United States. Source: SML Art Market Salary Report 2023 

In addition to base pay, many commercial gallery employees are eligible for performance-related bonuses on top of their base salaries.

Bonuses, which are typically tied to the performance of the individual and the business, offer commercial galleries an opportunity to acknowledge achievement across the entire staff – including the achievements of those who do not otherwise benefit from commission. Bonuses are either paid annually or distributed throughout the year, typically in the form of a mid-year or end-of-year lump sum.

We have observed that businesses typically offer employees either (at the discretion of the employer) a set percentage or weighted bonus, whereby the percentage an employee receives depends on their seniority. These targets tend to increase with seniority; a senior employee might have the opportunity to double their base salary.


SML and Gallery Administration and Operations 

We guide clients through entry-level hires to top-tier placements, building a strong network of operational and administrative talent in the art world. In recognition of evolving demands for diverse competencies, we also work to continuously expand our connections beyond the industry, seeking individuals with transferable skills. Leveraging extensive talent pools, we curate selections demonstrating deep art market understanding, mirroring our approach to sales hires. This underscores our commitment to grasping clients’ businesses and the skills essential for success. 

Useful Resources

Image Credits 

  • Ricardo Gomez Angel 
  • Xavier von Erlach