Michael Reid is a featured speaker in a Christie’s Education course being held in Sydney Australia at Reid’s gallery next week. The subject is Mapping a Career in the Art World. Reid is a longtime Sydney gallerist also has an outpost in Berlin. He’s a frequent commentator on the art market. Here are his own notes on what it takes to have a career in the art world (slightly edited to make them globally relevant.)
Practical skills are the keys to being at the top of the arts pack.
A good education, with a major in fine arts, is simply expected. Everyone in the arts is well educated. So what?
Learn and be willing to do what others are reluctant to do.
- Be able to read a balance sheet and to prepare budgets.
- Master accounting software.
- Become a champ at MailChimp or any other newsletter service.
- Learn to use graphic-design programs such as Photoshop, GIMP, Illustrator, etc.
- Learn to use software programs to manage collections and hire help.
- Become proficient in the various methods of art shipping, both domestic and international.
- Become familiar with commercial printing for postcards, flyers andcatalogues. Know your GSM (grams per square metre) from a galley proof.
- Undertake a short, postgraduate course in Project Management. That’s essentially what a gallery does: it manages art projects.
Remember: Tunnel vision won’t help your career in the art world, and it’s bad for business.
Consider alternative art-world career paths.
- PR / marketing
- Art shipping
- Designer / framer / printer / art insurer
- Interior designer or interior architect
Not everyone in the industry has to be a curator or an auction-house specialist, or work in an art gallery. The art world is a big business. Try to gain experience within the industry and across a wide range of possible aligned art careers. This may mean working in advertising and then the arts; in interior design and then the arts; in architecture and then the arts; in graphic design and then the arts. See the pattern? Do something skillful and practical, and then take the knowledge you gain from it to the arts.
Remember: You can achieve victory by circling your intended prize. Do as Chairman Mao Zedong did in seizing control of China: take the countryside first, and then the encircled cities will fall.
Choose carefully who you work with
Be as selective about who you work with, as you are about the job you want to do. Create or seize opportunities to work with someone you can learn from.Continue Reading