It is difficult to accurately determine the number of businesses involved in the production and sale of art and craft items. Data sources usually used to count the number of businesses in an industry, such as the Australian Business Register, do not separately identify art and craft producers - they are generally combined with other businesses in the creative arts industry such as self-employed composers, songwriters and writers.
As art and craft producers generally work independently and are often not part of any formal network, developing a list of organisations (including people working for themselves) who are representative of the industry is problematic. Consequently, the ABS has not undertaken surveys of art and craft producers in the past.
Collecting information on the activities of those who sell art and craft items is also difficult. Those involved in the sale of arts and crafts are generally counted with retailers of a range of other items in any business listings. Sales also regularly by-pass formal retail channels with producers selling directly, or selling through markets or fairs. The 1997 Art and Craft Purchases Survey provides some information on the main sales points for art and craft items.
Direct sales from artists and producers accounted for 22% of the value of sales; art and craft dealers, specialty craft shops and markets each had about 12% of sales; department stores, craft fairs, and museum and art gallery shops around 5% each; while the remaining sales were distributed amongst a variety of retailers.
The 1999-2000 ABS Survey of Commercial Art Galleries is one of the few business surveys to be conducted to gather information on those who sell art and craft items. The survey collected information on commercial art galleries and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) art centres. For the purpose of this survey, a commercial art gallery was defined as a business whose primary activity was the display and sale of works of art. At the end of June 2000, there were 514 commercial art gallery businesses operating in Australia. Some 31 of these commercial art galleries were ATSI art centres. The 514 commercial art gallery businesses operated from a total of 573 locations in Australia.