Being an art dealer is an exciting career if you want to connect artists and their work with potential collectors. Art dealers either work within a larger gallery or as art advisers, who often operate solo businesses. When considering this career, think through what type of art you are most interested in, such as contemporary, photography or antiquities. Ask yourself whether you like working as part of a team or independently.
Education and Background
Being an art dealer requires art history knowledge and business savvy. Many art dealers have a degree in art history, art administration or fine arts. You must be able to speak about an artist's work eloquently and explain to novices the value of their work in a larger art context. Being an art dealer also includes having a good business sense and ability to sell. Your primary task as an art dealer is to be a liaison between the artist and collector in order to sell the artist's work.
Art dealers are employed at art galleries to assist in selling work to the gallery clientele. This involves being able to speak to the significance of the work, provenance and past and upcoming exhibitions. Art galleries exist in a great variety of sizes, and the largest groupings are in major art hubs such as New York City's Chelsea district or in Los Angeles. At a gallery, you will have a support staff who handle other gallery duties, such as exhibition installation and documentation, while you focus on selling.
Art advisers are often solo or small operations that exist in the largest cities. As an art adviser, you must be able to speak about the work being made at a variety of galleries in your specialized artistic medium. Art advisers are hired by collectors to be a middle-person working with galleries, arranging sales and recommending work. As a solo operation, you handle all tasks for the business and early on it is common to intern or assist in a gallery or for another adviser in order to build clientele and knowledge of how the business works.
Salary and Other Insights
Art dealers' salaries can range greatly, depending on the size of your business and type of art you specialize in. Art dealers who work in galleries, museums and performance spaces made on average a salary of $32,000 yearly starting out jumping up to $74,900 after five years. Their income also varies with the ups and downs of the economy -- and the selling prices of art. A substantial portion of most art dealers' incomes happen at art fairs, yearly gatherings of dealers displaying their work for collectors. Fairs are a primary source of income, as most major collectors attend to look at a vast amount of work at once. Some of the largest art fairs happen in New York City and Miami, but there are smaller fairs around the country and internationally.
Grace Bordelon is a public relations professional, teacher and writer. She owns her own boutique public relations firm that specializes in the advertising, gaming and software industries. She also teaches at a major design school for fine artists, commercial artists and graphic designers. Bordelon holds a B.A. in international economics and an M.A. in English from Bard College.