An art society is an organisation providing means by which visual artists can exhibit, discuss, produce and/or sell their works.
Art societies have historically been important in providing individual artists with opportunities for periodic exhibition of works produced in a particular geographical area or genre. Selection from the works submitted for exhibition is usually done by a committee of senior members of the society, but also sometimes by directors or exceptionally in participatory direct-democratic way (like with nGbK in Berlin).
Because that process can become perceived as innately restrictive or conservative, it gives impetus to formation of new societies. Examples are the emergence of the Salon des Refusés alongside the Salon or the Society of Scottish Artists alongside the Royal Scottish Academy, as well as the emergence of parallel complementary societies with a specific focus on works in watercolour, printmaking, etc.
While the various exhibiting societies continue their work, generally producing annual group shows, recent decades have seen the emergence of artist-run spaces within which an artist or group can exhibit a broader body of work.
Some societies maintain their own premises but most use shared premises for their exhibitions, usually annually.