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10 tips to get into the art world

Written by Sophie Macpherson

Posted on 1st July 2017

Finding a job in the art world can be difficult as competition for jobs is very strong and supply outweighs demand by a considerable amount. The good news is that as the market continues to grow at a rapid rate, there are more and more opportunities out there: in 2012 global employment in the arts amounted to 2.4 million people, with 2 million direct jobs and 400,000 additional jobs in ancillary sectors.

  1. Think Global. Knowing the local market isn’t enough, you must have an understanding of how the industry operates globally. Not only do many commercial galleries have spaces around the world, there are now major auction sales in most capital cities. The ever increasing number of art fairs means that dealers are travelling throughout the year selling and exhibiting worldwide. The emergence of new markets in Brazil, Russia, India and China are also areas to watch.
  2. Research. This sounds obvious but there is so much that is not touched on about the art market at a BA level and it’s not enough just to have knowledge of the academic side. It’s important to be aware of how this largely commercial industry works so we recommend keeping up with specialist arts publications, forums, blogs and market reports. Being aware of prices recorded at auction, individual artists’ value and the key collectors who are influencing and shaping the market are all of useful bits of knowledge. Important publications to read include The Art Newspaper, Apollo, the Antiques Trade Gazette and the Financial Times. Online sources such as artinfo.com, artnet, Art Tactic, The Baer Faxt, Bloomberg and the NY Times are also key points of referral. As well as Art of England obviously! Find a journalist you like and sign up to receive their posts, we love Georgina Adam and Carol Vogel in particular.
  3. Be digitally savvy. Being able to navigate social media platforms is an increasingly desired skill. Many of our clients, including the more traditional are hiring specialists just to manage online presence. Nearly every arts organisation now uses social media to reach wider audiences, so make sure you are familiar with these digital platforms. 
  4. Practice your writing- you will need to be able to write quickly and communicate well whatever you do in this industry.  For more junior roles, you are often asked to provide samples of your writing, so it’s useful to have couple of reviews or market reports to submit.
  5. Internships. It is almost expected that you will take at least one internship before being offered a full time job. This experience can be essential in helping to understand the mechanisms of the industry whilst building up your CV and will enable you to recognize which areas you prefer and which you don’t.  Start this as early as you can, ideally at university.
  6. Calendar. Know the seasonal art world inside out and make sure you are aware of all the important auctions, fairs and exhibitions. Try to get to as many of them as you can and not just blockbuster museum shows, it’s good to seek out something more original to talk about at interview. Many people don’t realise that you can just walk into most live auctions without an invitation and see it all in action. Key dates include Asian Art Week in London in November, Old Master Picture Week in London in June and the major auctions in November, February, May and July.  Miami Basel in December, Frieze Art Fair in London in October and the Venice Biennale are particular highlights so follow them from afar even if you cannot attend them all!
  7. CV. Keep it to two pages as employers don’t have time to read through lengthy CVs. Make sure you put only relevant work experience on your CV; focus on any arts experience and put the most recent at the top, working chronologically. Avoid writing a long personal statement, save that for your (adapted) cover letter and keep your CV factual. Bullet pointed sentences are easier to digest rather than pages of prose.
  8. Know your strengths. There are many different types of things you can do in the industry, from academic research positions to business development in an auction house and it’s good to adapt your goals accordingly. Generally you will know whether pouring through archives is your thing rather than spreadsheets of sales results, so try to identify this early on.
  9. Keeping in touch. There is a great deal less transparency in this industry compared to other sectors. Senior hires in the private sector (as opposed to public) are rarely advertised, so many people navigate their way in and around through word of mouth. People will often recommend previous employees, friends or colleagues for jobs so for this reason it’s very important to proactively stay in touch with everyone you have worked for. You never know when that two week of work experience one summer might lead to a job after university.  Don’t be afraid to ask contacts for help and recommendations.
  10. Be open minded and think creatively. There are hundreds of things you can do beyond the more traditional roles so seek them out. It’s worth keeping in mind the rise of ancillary companies, such as PR agencies, advisory firms, specialist shipping firms, art funds, publications and fairs, all offering unique interesting roles within the arts.

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