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Careers in the Art World


Careers in the Art World

Careers in the Art World

One thing that can change dramatically over the course of a student’s time at university is their attitude to the outside world. People choose their courses when they’re filled with idealism and a sense of possibility, eyes set on a bold future they’re intent on breaking through to. As their years of study pass and graduation  looms closer, they start to realise they’re about to step out into the real world and begin to take a much keener interest in how they can convert this degree, certificate or qualification into rent.

Today we’re taking a look at different careers open to people who’ve been studying art. Lots of people complain they don’t get to use their degree in their work (plenty of them English graduates in routine office jobs which apparently don’t need critiques of George Eliot’s novels) so we’ll be concentrating on careers actually connected to the art world!


The reason the majority of people study art is because they want to make it. It’s hard to call this a career though: success as an artist doesn’t have the structure of a career, and is based at least as much on the luck of your work aligning with popular tastes, and getting exposure at the right time as it does on your skill!

If it’s what you dream of, then you have to try or you’ll always wonder, but there’s no ladder to climb in the art world – no boss who recognises your hard work makes sure you’re promoted to the level of Zurab Tsereteli or Tracy Emin. If you’re looking for security you need to look elsewhere.


There are no shortage of art galleries in the world – don’t limit your thinking to big, public galleries in London. Cities across the UK host their own smaller galleries looking for experts, and in the realm of contemporary art, private collectors with their own galleries require people who know how to care for art, how to search for it, and recognise new stars of the art world before anyone else.

Learning how to be a curator means stepping back from being a creator: it’s a more academic role, closer to critic than artist, recognising the value of art, following trends, and knowing how to put together a collection that’s more than the sum of its parts.

Auction and Sales

The thing that allows people to work as artists are sales: if their work doesn’t sell then they won’t be able to succeed and lots of art is sold at auction. More than one artist who’s not found success directly by making work has found this part of the infrastructure of the art world can support them! Your studies and experience give you the foundations of the skills you need: the ability to recognise trends in the art world, and what new pieces are following them, the research you need to set a value.

It can be a difficult and exclusive world to get into, but it’s one that will reward your efforts and keep you close to the art world.

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