Art Gallery Director Job Description, Education, Training Requirements, Career, Salary, Employment

Job Description: Art gallery directors can also be called art dealers and are sometimes gallery owners themselves. The job of an art gallery director is to arrange exhibitions and events for a gallery or galleries, developing a schedule, contacting exhibitors, and researching artists and their work to ensure that exhibits are compatible with the gallery.

Training and Educational Qualifications: Most art gallery directors have a college degree in art or art history. Some management positions require a master’s degree.

Job Outlook: Employment of artists and related workers is expected to grow faster than average. Competition for jobs is expected to be keen for both salaried and freelance jobs in all specialties, because the number of qualified workers exceeds the number of available openings. Also, because the arts attract many talented people with creative ability, the number of aspiring artists continues to grow. Employers in all industries should be able to choose from among the most qualified candidates.

Salary: Salaries vary depending on the budget of the gallery. Exact salaries for art gallery directors could not be obtained; however, within the larger category of art related careers, generally “directors” can expect to earn in the high end of the field.

Significant Facts:

•    Jobs in art galleries require a degree in art; management positions often require a master’s degree in art or art history.

•    Jobs in art galleries can be found in commercial galleries as well as in non profit environments such as museum galleries and galleries at colleges and universities.

Did you have an internship in this field prior to starting your job?

Yes, an internship at a gallery in Palm Springs, CA where I assisted in sales, curating an exhibition and researching the provenance and history of particular works of art.

Which companies have the best internships in this field and are known to help launch successful careers?

Private galleries with an established history and reputation. Consider markets outside of New York City and LA for more hands on and direct experience, such as Santa Fe, Chicago or Scottsdale, AZ.

Where are the best cities to live to find jobs like yours?

New York and Santa Fe.

What is your typical day like?

It changes day to day, depending on where we are in the exhibition schedule. Working with clients always comes first, but some days I could be installing a show or designing an ad in Art News. I could meet with an artist to review a portfolio or travel to New York for auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s. There are also less glamorous days spent updating inventory, painting bases or organizing a sculpture delivery with truck drivers and crane operators.

What are your job responsibilities?

Running all aspects of the gallery operation: curate, install and promote all exhibitions; assist clients with sales, appraisals and consignments; inventory acquisition via auction, private party purchase or artist representation; design and create all ads and promotional material; research and write artist biographies and text for exhibition catalogues; develop and maintain Web site and digital image inventory; hire, train and manage all personnel; conduct gallery tours and educational lectures.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Auction bidding or meeting with artists to review portfolios.

What do you dislike about your job?

Dealing with shipping artwork, especially importing sculpture from overseas and having to navigate customs.

Have you had any turning point or “light bulb” moments in your career that have helped you get to where you are today?

When I one day realized that I was holding a Georgia O’Keeffe painting in one hand and a John Marin in the other both artists that I studied in school and admired at museums but was never able to touch or examine closely.

How did you know you wanted to pursue this career?

I started out studying painting in college. While I had talent, I soon realized that my passion was studying other people’s art. I was fascinated by how much you could learn about history, culture and society just by studying the art from a particular period.

Describe how you got into this industry and how you got your most recent job.

Right out of graduate school I knew that New York was too big a city for me. I therefore chose Santa Fe for its large and diverse art market, but smaller community life. Through a family connection, I submitted a resume to the largest gallery in Santa Fe, Nedra Matteucci’s Fenn Galleries. The result was that I was hired as an associate director. After three and a half years at this gallery, I was hired by Owings-Dewey Fine Art as Director of their sculpture department. Two years later, I opened a new gallery for Owings-Dewey and have been directing this gallery ever since.

If you weren’t doing this job, what similar careers might you consider?

Museum Curator or Advertising/Print Designer.

To what professional associations do you belong?

Museum of New Mexico Foundation and Fine Art Dealers Association (FADA).

What publications and Web sites do you read?

Print publications I read are Art News, Art and Antiques, The Art Newspaper, El Palacio, Southwest Art, and the Santa Fean. On the Web, I read Art Net, Ask Art, and Collector’s Guide.

What advice do you have for others who would like to pursue this career?

It can be as glamorous and idealized as you envision, but be prepared for the reality as well. Just like any business, there are the day to day activities that must be dealt with. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get dirty minutes before the exhibition reception where you’re drinking a glass of wine and hobnobbing with a celebrity.

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