So, You Want to Work in the Arts?: The Art Business is a Business

ARTBIZ5

This short post is both a reminder for myself and others. I think there is this misconception that, because I work at a gallery, I don’t really “work.” People seem consistently surprised when I mention that I spent and afternoon entering costs into Quickbooks or creating spreadsheets to measure the efficacy of marketing campaigns. They look at me with wonderment, as if the idea that I don’t sit around in studios all day sipping Chardonnay with posh artists is such a wild deviation from their vision of the gallery business.

And I’ve encountered this bias at many levels: from parents who say, “Well, your brother work works,” to interns who don’t take the job seriously, to accountants who don’t take me seriously, to friendly neighbors who ponder from their stoops what I could possibly be doing all day!

Art is a business. That business is art. Art, like any other business, has a lot of day-to-day muck that is boring and tedious and not all that exciting. We, the galleries, do the business so that our artists don’t have to. We sell and pitch and market and mend so that the artists can create and network and develop meaningful, creative relationships. We have regulations and laws and taxes just like any other business. We have commitments to landlords and open hours and staff to pay. It takes long hours of hard, competitive work. It’s a tough business to be in. But when done well and with passion, it is glorious.

If you’re just getting into the business (or thinking about it), you need to think like an MBA not an MFA. Just a little PSA from me to you.

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2 thoughts on “So, You Want to Work in the Arts?: The Art Business is a Business

  1. I am getting an MA in Econ and Finance and keep trolling the internet, looking at jobs in the arts. There must be people who would hire someone who knows about business, but I don’t know what positions actually exist. I wish there were art business classes I could have taken.

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    • Thanks for the comment! Have you looked into courses at Sotheby’s? They have a program (degree and certificate I believe) for the art business. Depending on where you live, this could be a good option. As far as gallery positions, I would look into Gallery Management and Administration, specifically in the blue chip galleries. That could eventually grow into a most business-strategy/development oriented position. Look for positions in museum development (aka fundraising) – they could certainly use your business sense! Get experience, even as a summer intern (not sure how viable that is for you), just so you can have the advantage of having worked in a gallery/art-related field. If I think of anything else, I’ll be sure to let you know! Unfortunately, smaller galleries are strapped for cash AND manpower, so they tend to hire those with gallery or studio experience, and leave the business to the owner.

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