Lauren Pappas

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Restricted Access (SIA Only)

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Brendan Burns

Second Advisor

Mark Brennan


This thesis was written as part of the Master’s in Art in Art Business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in New York. The contemporary art market is uncertain in nature and businesses within the industry withstand high risks to business continuity. This thesis will explore disruptive risks and uncertainty confronting small to mid-sized contemporary art galleries in the United States. In this thesis, a small to mid-sized gallery is defined as a gallery with less than $1 million in revenue per year. According to the 2021 Art Market Report, 64% of galleries worldwide make under $1 million in annual sales turnover. The global dealer sector is made up of an estimated 291,000 businesses covering both the primary and secondary markets, the vast majority of which are small and micro-sized businesses, both in terms of headcount and sales turnover.1 The thesis will refer to the pervasiveness of uncertainty in the art world, including impacts of the changing market related to rapid commercialization and globalization on the competitive market landscape. Based on interview responses with gallery stakeholders and legal, market, and digital strategy specialists, the paper summarizes threatening risks to small and mid-sized contemporary galleries in the United States, breaking down risks into property, legal and regulatory, and market risk categories. The paper provides a comprehensive risk assessment questionnaire which reviews the gallery’s mission and goals, identifies the activities of the business, and explores what may prevent the gallery from achieving their short and long-term goals. Decision makers are then able to measure risks based on the assessment of potential severity and likelihood, to weigh risk management treatment options to steer decision making. My goal is to provide small and mid-sized galleries with a risk management methodology for creating and protecting value by steering decision-making based on strategic objectives which will help manage risks and improve performance.