An art gallery can, of course, be a tranquil, inspiring environment for art lovers and creative types.
But you need more than a passion for art to thrive as a gallery owner – a modicum of business nous helps too.
Our sector spotlight on the industry, which outlines the attributes required and an overview of the sector, is worth reading before you embark on the buying process.
It’s worth hiring a solicitor or business transfer agent with experience of overseeing acquisitions of leisure or entertainment businesses. You may struggle to find an adviser with experience of selling art galleries specifically, as they are relatively few in number.
Multiple revenue streams
If having shops and cafes or tea rooms attached, or offering framing services, offers the compelling advantage of additional revenue streams, then naturally this usually commands a higher price.
But not necessarily eye-watering amounts – it’s not a particularly expensive sector to buy into judging by the art galleries for sale.
In fact, the cheapest UK art gallery for sale at the time of writing – a Suffolk-based establishment for only £30,000 leasehold – comes with tea room as part of the deal – an award-winning tea room that tops the TripAdvisor ratings in the local area to boot.
Even the most expensive business in this category comes in at £110,000 leasehold, which is still £123,000 shy of the average UK house price, and gets you not one but two framing centres and art galleries.
In fact, if a gallery isn’t in a city or large town, then it’s highly likely to be in an affluent town or seaside resort, or area popular with tourists. This offers the enticing prospect of an exciting relocation. Given art galleries for sale are few and far between, it does mean you might have to be flexible on location.
If a business for sale is struggling, it’s important to know why. If it’s because of a challenging location – a low footfall site or proximity to fierce competition – then it will be tricky for a new owner to turn round.
But if mismanagement and a misjudged selection of art are to blame, then you could land a bargain if you can correctly diagnose the problems and solutions and you’re willing to put in the extra work to reinvent it.
Assessing this takes more than an investigation of the financial accounts. You need to visit the gallery yourself on several occasions to judge the art on display, how busy it is inside and how it fits into the local area.
It’s also possible that, conversely, a gallery’s success might be hard to sustain if certain factors prevail – if its success depends heavily on the current owner’s charisma and connections, for instance.
Let’s say it’s only been going for two years and has flourished through the owner’s connections to
some exceptional artists. Perhaps all you’re buying is a limited former warehouse space with little or nothing in the way of digital assets. If the price is well above the cost of the premises, and contingent on the previous owner’s connections, what are you actually buying?
In that sense, it is hugely reassuring if you get a high-quality website, lofty rankings for key search terms and a large number of social media followers.
If the owner is a big success factor, you might be convinced to meet the asking price if the vendor is willing to stay on for an agreed period beyond the sale to facilitate a smooth transition.
Once you’ve bought an art gallery – and even while the buying process is ongoing – it’s time to consider how to run one.
If you already own an art gallery and want to sell it before buying another, see our guide on how to sell an art gallery