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An art gallery is a room or a building in which visual art is displayed. In Western cultures from the mid-15th century, a gallery was any long, narrow covered passage along a wall, first used in the sense of a place for art in the 1590s. The long gallery in Elizabethan and Jacobean houses served many purposes including the display of art. Historically, art is displayed as evidence of status and wealth, and for religious art as objects of ritual or the depiction of narratives. The first galleries were in the palaces of the aristocracy, or in churches. As art collections grew, buildings became dedicated to art, becoming the first art museums.
Among the modern reasons art may be displayed are aesthetic enjoyment, education, historic preservation, or for marketing purposes. The term is used to refer to establishments with distinct social and economic functions, both public and private. Institutions that preserve a permanent collection may be called either "gallery of art" or "museum of art". If the latter, the rooms where art is displayed within the museum building are called galleries. Art galleries that do not maintain a collection are either commercial enterprises for the sale of artworks, or similar spaces operated by art cooperatives or non-profit organizations. As part of the art world, art galleries play an important role in maintaining the network of connections between artists, collectors, and art experts that define fine art.