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A Career in Art Sales

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If you're interested in an art sales career, there are many things to consider. A career in art sales is usually only rewarding for the right type of person and not everyone is cut out for this sort of career. The article below details the pros and cons and offers clarity for those with questions about art sales.

If you wish to be in art sales, you might work for a museum (mainly as a buyer), an art gallery, or online. But even if you have a university degree, there really is no one degree that directly prepares you for an art sales career. A degree in art history might help you get started in a museum, but that's about it. And even if that happens for you, you'll have to begin doing art sales for the love of it. In the beginning, you won't make a lot of money, and a lot of those who get into it as beginners don't depend on it for their income at all—they work another job for money. Indeed, you'd be better off, if you want this to be about money right from the start, to get an MBA and, if you know you have a knack for or love of art, opening up your own art gallery.

One dealer in Old Master paintings and drawings at a gallery in New York City (who has a Ph.D. in art history that he does not use) says, ''We find extraordinary works of art for clients and help them develop their taste. That's what makes this business fun. The keys to art dealing are quality, rarity, and value. You can only recognize those if you have looked at a lot of things. Many people in this field have an independent income and will do anything to get in the door...A gallery can move much faster [than a board of trustees of a museum] because it's so small...I started at about $30,000 annually plus 7.5 percent commission. However much my clients like me, I will never really be part of their world. Yet how many people get to do what I do?''



Art sales can be difficult experiences for artists themselves, however. Artists know the intrinsic value of their creations, yet often cannot convey that value to other people- least of all art collectors. This is because art collectors are looking for something else other than what the artist sees. Indeed, this is partly unfair; but, it is quite simply a fact that most, other than the artist herself, could ever truly appreciate all the thought put into the creation. Art is created to introduce others to a mystery, and to draw them in though. If someone is interested in collecting art, it's better to enable them than put them off with your confusion or ignorance.

Artists who would like to try selling their art, or who would like to engage in a partnership with an art seller or forge a relationship with a gallery, should first and foremost never stop producing their art. From the time that they start, they should just keep going and going and going—if the Energizer Bunny comes to mind, that's good. Many artists consider putting their art aside until they have raised their children to older ages, or to ''take a break'' for a few years and focus on the ''real world'', or because they aren't satisfied with their current state, and so on and so forth. This is a terrible mistake for a couple of reasons. First, future collectors, when you start up your art again, will be wary of you. You will have a broken line of work, meaning you might stop producing again. Artists who continuously produce make more fans, and more fans means the value of the art goes up. Collectors want to know that they are getting a return on their investment. Just as you, the artist, have put your time and energy into the work, so they are choosing to invest their money into your art as well. Artists with fewer fans do not give the best returns on investment. The other problem with failing to produce constantly (and this is even if you have a ''day job'') is that you can grow far out of practice and lose the fire, the edge. In this case, your production is less valuable all the way around.

Artists who want to also do art sales (either themselves or in a serious way through professional art sellers) and give themselves a full-time art career have to know how to tell others about the value of their work—from the collectors' perspective. To this end, there is nothing more important than others’ recognition. Artists should join artists' organizations; create a website; get catalogues made that feature their art; do exhibits, festivals, trade shows, and the like; get their work reviewed in local publications; and write or have written brief descriptions of what inspired their art, what it was like creating a certain piece, techniques and materials involved, etc. A custom-crafted, professionally written art sales resume is highly necessary also. And you will need to accept being appreciated more than understood.

EBay is a wonderful place to sell art and should not be overlooked or looked down upon. You won't be able to sell much art that is over a couple of hundred dollars a piece to the general buying public; but you can open an eBay storefront and perhaps create a niche market for higher end art pieces or sell the best of the ''low end'' works that you can find (or produce).

Ultimately, a career in art sales is not for those who wish to be rich. But it can be for those who want to be fulfilled.
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