There are two major different types of art galleries, but once you get past those two distinctions, there are as many different types of art galleries as there are types of art.
The art gallery is the name given to a place where some type of visual art is displayed. The two different types of art galleries are the art museum and the contemporary commercial art gallery. An art museum is usually publicly owned and is not in the business of making a profit, but rather displaying and preserving art. It also exists to educate people about art. Some examples of famous art galleries in the United States are the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C, and the St. Louis Art Museum.
Contemporary Art Galleries
Contemporary art or commercial art galleries have the purpose of selling art rather than simply displaying it. There are as many different types of these art galleries are there are types of art. Many of these galleries are just in the business of selling works of art and will offer pretty much whatever is available. Other art galleries tend to specialize in one type of art or another.
The different types of commercial art include rental galleries and co-op galleries. The rental galleries rent space to artists for the purpose of selling their art. They are not as common as the galleries that retain more control over their offerings to the public. The co-op gallery is usually run by a group of artists that share the expenses of operating the gallery in exchange for the opportunity to exhibit their work in it.
Form of Artwork Exhibited in a Gallery
Another way of looking at the different types of art galleries is the subject matter and form of artwork exhibited. Certain galleries might offer only local art or modern art. Some may be themed art such as historical art or wildlife art. They may offer only religious art. Some galleries specialize in regional or national art. For example, Asian art might be the theme for a gallery or European art. Some galleries offer only photographs or sculpture.
Regardless of the type of gallery, the purposes of the commercial art gallery are to get art in front of the public. This is not done so much for educational or purely art appreciation reasons, but to make sales and profit. This statement is not intended to make them sound overly crass. Art galleries have encouraged the progress of art by providing an opportunity for artists to exhibit their work and make a living. It might be said that the art museum is the place for the art of the past and the art gallery is the place for the art of the future.