Art galleries are a little like stores, but they are not exactly stores, so what are art galleries?
An art gallery is a link between an artist and the public. It is absolutely indispensable to our cultural life. Without galleries art would be kept in the confines of museums, and reserved to the elite. In fact galleries are the only places where you admire freely works of art.
You should not think about art resellers in the same way that you think about art galleries. Art resellers buy works of art (from already established artists) and resell them. Art galleries cater to artists in whom they believe, and represent these artists. They ensure the promotion of the artist’s work, and endeavor to make the public aware of the artists they represent. The risks are higher, and the profits much less.
Some people are intimidated to enter a gallery, because they think that they might not look like someone who would go into a gallery to buy art. The fact is that, there is no particular a buyer looks like, and besides, there is no obligation to buy. Gallery owners as well as artists are happy to have you visit and view what they bring to you.
Frequently artists that are displayed in galleries are not very rich, and the gallery owner who represents them is not rich either. Owners are not parasites living off artist’s labor, they operate the gallery because they love what they do, sometimes it pays off and sometimes not.
Art work is expensive, because it takes a long time to produce, and because it is expensive to operate an art gallery. By supporting galleries you help support the art community and artists who oftentimes live in your locality.