Art world job-seekers must understand the business

Head to head, with a specialist recruiter

What sort of jobs are there in the art world?

We work at every level within the sector, from junior positions, such as gallery assistants, researchers and artist liaisons, to managing directors of galleries and small businesses, departmental specialists at auction houses and chief operating officers of art funds and advisory firms.How does art world recruitment compare with other sectors?

There is a great deal less transparency and almost all senior hires in the private sector are never advertised or made public. There are fewer qualified people for each position than in other sectors, making the search harder, especially when an employer is looking for very specialist knowledge.

This also means those already in senior positions can be very sought after and will have many offers available should they wish to consider them. When recruiting you have to consider much more than the CV: you need to look at the candidate’s relationships with artists or collectors, their reputation with their peers and their aesthetic background, which exhibitions they have helped to make happen or which pictures they have sold and to whom, which artists they work with and how well liked they are within the industry.Is it still notoriously difficult to break in to?

Definitely, although there are more jobs as more businesses are operating in the art world. The number of ancillary companies, such as PR agencies, specialist shipping firms, arts publications and art fairs has grown, which in turn creates more opportunities. However, most people will have to find themselves at least one internship before being considered for a full-time role as competition for jobs is still very strong and supply outweighs demand by a considerable amount.Which skills/qualifications are required?

At entry level, at least a BA in history of art, art criticism or fine art; a proven track record of extracurricular activity, such as internships or work experience taken throughout the education years; one foreign language; and the ability to present well via the written word as well as in person. Beyond that, a clear understanding of the appraisal and valuation of works of art, ideally through documentation such as museum or auction catalogues or critical publications or reviews, is needed. What is your advice to someone seeking a job in the art world?

Research your sector of the market, make sure you really know how the industry functions, look at prices being recorded at auction and privately where possible. You need to understand that this is a financial, and often very profitable, industry – that is key when looking for work.

Too many people expect to be carrying out academic research, putting up pictures and writing press releases without seeing the end goal. This is an increasingly important industry and one that demands professionalism and attention to the bottom line as much as any other business.

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