If you’re passionate about art and interested in working at an art gallery, you might be wondering about what a career in the art world looks like. For example, what types of job opportunities are available in a gallery setting and do you need to be an arts or design major to be eligible for them? To find out how to land a job at an art gallery, we spoke with Melanie Kimmelman, a promotion and events coordinator at the David Zwirner Gallery.
Here are some of the key things you need to know about working in the art world.
What types of art gallery positions are there?
Although it’s common to think that most art gallery jobs are art-focused, the reality is that there are plenty of other opportunities too. Typical jobs at a gallery include positions such as a gallery associate, an events coordinator, a social media manager and an office manager. In short, regardless of your major, you’re likely to find an opportunity that works for you. The key is to be passionate about art. “I handle all events related to exhibition openings, dinners and cocktail parties and I also do a lot of publicity to support exhibitions,” Melanie explains about her position as an events coordinator, emphasizing that like most roles in a gallery setting, her role is a cross-functional one. In order to succeed in this type of setting, it’s important to be truly passionate about you’re doing and to be well-versed in what’s happening in the art world.
What types of skills do you need in order to work at an art gallery?
Although there is a lot of variation in the types of positions you can find at an art gallery, one thing remains constant: the ability to work across different departments. Some of the skills that are crucial to any type of gallery position are:
Knowledge of the industry
Even if your position doesn’t directly focus on the art or artists represented by the gallery, having a solid understanding of the industry is key. “I work with every single artist that we represent and I think that’s really exciting because it builds my knowledge of the company as a whole,” Melanie says, emphasizing that this knowledge helps her better represent both the gallery and the artists.
Being able to communicate effectively is important in any field, and in the fast-paced art world, it’s especially crucial. This is because you’ll often be coordinating events, exhibitions and art deliveries across multiple departments and with outside teams. In order to ensure that everything goes smoothly, it’s important to develop a communication style that is clear and effective.
“The gallery world is very fast paced,” Melanie explains. “You have to be able to juggle all of your day-to-day duties and be able to prioritize and drop things when something is urgent.” The key to doing this effectively is to ensure that you have a clear understanding of your priorities and to manage your workflow accordingly.
How do you get your foot in the door for an art gallery job?
As is the case with most competitive industries, the key to landing a job at a gallery is to develop your skills while also growing your professional network. Melanie emphasizes that although her education as an art history major played a big part in developing her passion for art, it was her internship experience that paved the way for her career. “While I was in college, I interned at a museum for two years over the course of my junior and senior year,” she says. The contacts she made there landed her a job after graduation. “I maintained a relationship with my old boss and as soon as there was a position open, she reached out to me.” The result was a full-time job that successfully jump-started her career.
An art gallery job is a great option for those who are passionate about art and interested in learning about its many facets. To find out if a career in the art world is right for you, we suggest taking on an internship and getting some first-hand experience in the field.
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