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Getting represented by a gallery
How to Get a Job in the Art World: Branding Yourself through Resume, Grooming and Other Important Stuff
We're pretty involved at our alma mater, the University of Michigan School of Art & Design. In a couple weeks we'll be meeting with students at the Portfolio Expo, a great event where students get to share their work with professionals that can give them insight on internships and jobs, what approach to take to achieve their next goal and general advice for exploring the art world. I remember how nerve-wracking it was trying to get my foot in the door at a gallery. There's a steep learning curve involved with molding into the culture of dealing with clients and that's something that can't be taught. Since the bulk of my background has been in gallery and art administration, I've interviewed and hired a few interns over the years. For the most part, I knew my future intern within two minutes of meeting them. But before that, the resume tipped me off on who I should look out for. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
You are a brand, and your resume is a product of that. I really appreciate a thoughtful resume with attention to font, spacing, color and if it's relevant, a logo. It's especially effective if the content of your resume stands up to the aesthetics. Many times I see gimick-y resumes but there's little to no content or not enough text to tell me what skill sets students possess or what they did at their last job. Conversely, a resume that's content heavy but runs text all the way to the margins when it says they're graphic design majors, is just as disconcerting. Striking a balance is difficult and every interviewer or potential employer is going to look for different things. My advice is to send your resume to at least three professors and/or professionals in the field that have the time to give you feedback on both aesthetic and content.
Here are a few other tips:
- Curate and edit. Keep your resume to one page, if possible. The second page is usually overlooked, mostly due to time constraints.
- Don't fill up the page with an extra large font if you're short on experience. Own the fact that you're green and be honest about your ambitions during interviews.
- Please use spellcheck. I cringe thinking that you're not only sending it to me, but lots of other potential employers as well. It's indicative of the type of work you'll produce.
- If you don't feel confident on your design skills, do a trade with a graphic designer to spruce up your resume.
GROOMING + INTERVIEWING
I once had a student show up for a 9 a.m. interview at 9:15 (Strike one. I'm a stickler on punctuality, especially for interviews)! We had a nice conversation but I knew right away that she wouldn't feel comfortable on the gallery floor. The collectors I dealt with would walk all over her. Plus, she hadn't brought a copy of her resume (strike two). As she was speaking, I noticed that her hair was a bit unruly. As she turned to the side, I saw a huge matted knot on the back of her head that stuck straight up. Bedhead. (Strike three. Must brush hair to work in gallery). After she left, I never heard from her again. Then there was the student who showed up in a tight white, see-through waffle shirt and dark, red lipstick - all over her teeth. She wasn't called back.
Last year, our good friend John Luther, the Career Development Coordinator at the School of Art & Design, sent me notice that Kelsey would be calling to meet when she moved to Chicago. She was open to various positions but was really hoping to get into a design consultancy that handled all kinds of creative campaigns and products. Although it wasn't my realm of expertise, we had a great conversation about the art scene. Not only did she show up on time and brush her hair, she was dressed appropriately, brought copies of her resume (although I had already seen it electronically) and had done research on the gallery. Consequently, Kelsey got herself a great position from meeting the President of a major company just weeks later.
It may seem obvious but I used to have friends during art school that didn't shower. And one notorious friend who didn't brush his teeth (gum was the stand-in). Whether you know it or not, people will recognize you from gallery openings and class which could affect your outcome in getting a job later. Brush your hair. And your teeth.
There's an old saying that goes, "Dress for the job that you want, not the one that you have." There's a lot of truth to that. My first year of art school, I couldn't afford a lot of interview clothing. My "uniform", as it came to be called, consisted of black long sleeve shirts, a black sweater vest, black dress pants and black boots. I pegged myself into the stereotypical artist garb but I never had a problem with matching outfits or looking underdressed. I always made sure my hair was coiffed and kept out of my face. I interviewed for two jobs this way and got them both. The point is, do your best and carry yourself like you mean it. Here are a few points to remember when interviewing:
- Practice out loud. Make sure you can answer simple things like, Tell me about yourself? or Why do you want this job?
- Answer the question. Don't get caught up in telling long stories and forgetting what they wanted to know in the first place.
- Research the organization or company you're interviewing with. Even one factual tidbit will let the interviewer know that you're serious.
- Bring your resume, no matter how many times you know they've seen it.
- Smile and try to have a good time!
- Follow up. Thank you note or not, it's a helpful reminder to email or drop a line to keep your presence fresh in their mind. If not for now, maybe down the road.
It's a daunting but exciting feat to obtain an art-related job. Internships are competitive and really test your ability to thrive under pressure. In between final projects, tests and papers, it's hard sometimes to figure out what you want to brand yourself as and ultimately, how. Think about your business card, your website and consider how cohesive they are to representing you and your work. Art school is a competitive business but don't be afraid to show your work to peers and ask for feedback. We should all be well-versed in giving active and helpful critique by now so offer to do that same for your friends too.
We're hoping to acquire an intern as our business grows down the road. Who knows, maybe it'll be you. Best of luck to each and every one of you!
It's here! Our online shop offers original photography and art, which can be viewed here. Every piece is edition marked, hand signed and shipping is included in the price.
I've included travel shots from Taiwan, Italy's Amalfi Coast and the ever-changing Chicago skyline, which I shot for almost two years from the same spot. There's also a limited edition Enter the Dragon print in time for Chinese New Year. We're really flexible and enjoy working on projects so if you have a combination or request for something larger, let us know. Thanks for the continued support!
Lately I've encountered many students on the verge of graduating college. Most of them are reluctantly looking ahead to more school. If I've learned anything in the last seven years it's this: don't do it if it's not what you want.
The last thing that will relieve the burden of books and instructors and deadlines is more school.
Now, I'm not saying more school is a bad thing, but it's more worthwhile to take a break and see the real world first.
Get a job in your field of study, or move to a big city and find part time work. Interact with people. Only then will you truly learn.
After seven years of working in the real world, I want to go back to school. I'll take it more seriously and get more out of it at every level than I would had I gone to school right after graduation.
Life experience has brought me focus and appreciation.
For five years I dealt American paintings and prints that the majority of us can't afford. We're talking tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars for art work. I've handled everything from William Merritt Chase to Alexander Calder to Robert Rauschenberg. The point of my sharing this isn't so that you can gawk at the list (although sometimes I still do), but to let you know that there are different stakes in every level of collecting. Recently, I've run into a couple of experiences where people wanted to sell or trade in their works. Unfortunately, it's difficult enough to sell a painting that has a known name, much less a contemporary unknown. When I say "known", I mean an artist that has been traded, sold, dealt as a commodity. Yes, it sounds crude because in many ways, it is. There's no real intrinsic value to a painting (besides the intangible and invaluable sense of enjoyment one gets out of it, but you and I live in a real world, not a fantasy one), so each work by an artist must be treated as such. Until it's been sought after or fought over, it's not going to bring you a return. Plain and simple.
COLLECTING FOR THE MOST OF US
Let's say you attend an art fair on the street. Each artist brings their blood, sweat, tears and hope that you will support them for their talent and craft. But you're also going to be buying at a premium. Consider the convenience, the ambiance and excitement of the fair. Take the set up time, the booth fee, the hotel, gas and food. These are all percentages that add up in the artist's mind and are offered to you, as the patron, to support someone's lifestyle. It's not an easy feat and an incredibly humbling career choice.
If you buy a contemporary piece of art work, you better buy it because you love it. That's what I always tell people. Bottom line: love it or move on. Because unless you just bought it from the next Gerard Richter and you just don't know it yet, purchasing low to middle end art is not a good investment for return.
COLLECTING FOR THE 1%
Many wealthy people collect art. It's a rite of passage that tells people that you not only have a lot of money but that you have enough culture and taste to know what to do with it. It's also a commodity for them that can be folded into their investment portfolios.
Let's say you have money to burn. In a time when a movie like (Untitled) is more reality than farce, you have to ask yourself, how much of this art game do you know and how much do you really want to get into? Once you buy an original piece from an artist (NOT barter, trade, get a break from a friend but actually buy it outright), it's hard to stop. You start surfing for more pieces like it by the same artist or others like him/her. You set a financial limit and break it immediately. You start to think about framing and make considerations about the hue of the matte that you never thought you would. You attend art fairs where they serve champagne like water and dealers' faces brighten when they see you enter the booth. They call you by first name and tactfully insert your children's/pet's names as if they've been thinking about you during your absence. It's a relationship building exercise at every level of this game and you have to think about how much you want to be told/coerced into buying pieces. Because like it or not, you don't make many of the decisions at this point. You've probably been tainted a bit by rules and criticisms and you might have a room of things you don't even hang or look at or think about.
COLLECTING FOR 1% of the 1% (or really 10% of the top 1% according to the New York Times)
This is a wholly different game. These types of collectors collect installation, video, sponsor performance art that you may not even think is art. Art Basel Miami took place last week and just closed out its 10th year. There was a New York Times article about Eli Broad and his philanthropy, collecting and activity in the artworld over the last forty years or so. But the most valuable part of the piece was this line:
"And like many representatives of the 0.001 percent here, the Broads showed little sign of easing up on their longtime habit of getting and spending, or of easing up, period."
Besides the fact that during this recovery of the Great Recession many of the elite rich are still collecting, the percentage of the elite rich that collect at this level is even more minute. ".001" That's probably the most succinct and accurate representation of collecting at this level I've ever seen printed. Those that have the knowledge and the means to collect at that level are not walking among us unless you're standing outside Sant Ambroeus on Madison. It's a quick-paced game and dealers have to keep up appearances at this level in order to appeal to the next buyer. That being said, if you won the lottery tomorrow, you still probably wouldn't be able to walk into any high end gallery in New York City and buy a painting. Dealers want the provenance, the list of where the piece has been, to be renowned, pedigree, preferably celebrity. Longtime British dealer, Charles Saatchi, recently commented on Basel in a scathing article in The Guardian. I highly recommend it as required reading.
"Being an art buyer these days is comprehensively and indisputably vulgar. It is the sport of the Eurotrashy, Hedge-fundy, Hamptonites; of trendy oligarchs and oiligarchs; and of art dealers with masturbatory levels of self-regard. They were found nestling together in their super yachts in Venice for this year's spectacular art biennale. Venice is now firmly on the calendar of this new art world, alongside St Barts at Christmas and St Tropez in August, in a giddy round of glamour-filled socialising, from one swanky party to another.
Do any of these people actually enjoy looking at art? Or do they simply enjoy having easily recognised, big-brand name pictures, bought ostentatiously in auction rooms at eye-catching prices, to decorate their several homes, floating and otherwise, in an instant demonstration of drop-dead coolth and wealth. Their pleasure is to be found in having their lovely friends measuring the weight of their baubles, and being awestruck."
I had to keep from giggling out loud too many times while I was reading because there was so much truth in it. There's little rhyme or reason to the artworld and yet I still hold on to the Utopian fantasy of a just vetting system. That shows will introduce content and concept that will blow my mind instead of confuse and frustrate out of lack of representation. (Check out the finalists for this year's Turner Prize and comment back on your choice).
Perhaps supporting the local art fair isn't such a bad thing after all. At least you get to choose what you buy.
It isn't something you purchase with the intent to turn around for profit, or in some cases even the value paid. It isn't something you own if it's something you don't understand. It isn't something you buy just to store in a basement. It certainly isn't something that's easy to define.
Art provokes. Art challenges. Art is an outlet. Art is something that can literally be anything, yet everyone knows what art is to them. The OCCUPY WALL SPACE movement isn't to force people to buy art, but when they do to actually consider the art, artist and community.
It's far too easy to run to Pier 1 or Bed, Bath and Beyond and purchase an over priced reproduction that's been mass printed. For the same price, however, you can hand pick an original piece that will make you smile, give you something to talk about and perhaps inspire you to think differently. Please do what you can to help people that offer so much to this world, and are so often overlooked.
Many times in life I've interacted with people that show up to work or class, and do exactly just enough to get by. They usually do what's required, but that's it. There seems to be no drive or personality in their actions. Brijit Spencer is currently an art student at the University of Michigan's School of Art and Design. Her interest is photography, which she has a firm understanding of, as well as some drawing and painting. It's photography, though, that she'd like to pursue, post graduation. It's no surprise that some of her favorites include Sally Mann, Nan Goldin and Diane Arbus. Her work, past and current, seems an ongoing documentary of the life she knows and is getting to know. Among other photos in her Integrative Project (which can be seen here) are two photos of a boy and his Halloween candy. Both images hold innocence, but the first leaves the viewer wondering if the slight frown worn by the child is just a random moment or in response to an unwanted request. The other photo perfectly captures the subordinate eyes of the child, as a piece of candy hangs in the balance. People are capable of acting out these emotions, but for a child this age, staged photos are extremely rare. The credit here is due to Brijit.
These images represent only a slice of her photography and style, and it's safe to say that as a student who is set to graduate in a few months, she has little free time. Yet somehow she is doing something that few students do: she's reaching out to people before graduation.
It's never too late for anything, BUT if you have the chance to contact potential employers and/or artists you admire before entering the fast paced real world, do so. Good grades and solid work are definitely good things, but they don't always set you apart. Be aggressive, be persistent. Simply put: be like Brijit.
More of Brijits work can be seen here.
When there's too much of anything, it no longer holds it's value. This applies to things such as food, art and even weddings. Whether religious or not, a marriage is the joining of two people that are truly in love and see themselves with their partner for the rest of their lives. When somebody tells the world they're getting married and makes a huge deal of it, and then divorces a few weeks later, that tends to hurt the foundation of marriage. Why take it serious anymore? Art is no different. We live in a world that's flooded with "art". I must use quotations because, let's be honest, not everyone has had the same amount of art experience as others. Cafes, lounges and even restaurants are often crowded with photography, paintings or any other incarnation of "art", usually supplied by local artists. This is where it becomes vital that these artists realize that even if they make the $150 or $250 they have listed next to their work, they're doing themselves and every other artist a disservice.
Allowing a business to show your work seems like a win-win situation, but it's not. Consider that a museum or gallery will show your work at the ideal viewing height, with optimal lighting and bring in crowds of people that are only interested in art. Restaurants and cafes only care about selling their goods and services. And the patrons? Rarely does anyone that enters a T.G.I.Fridays with a hankering for the Caribbean Passion Tossed Salad ever say, "You know, I came to T.G.I.Fridays because they have good prices, but I really want to spend this $250 I have in my wallet on that painting that makes absolutely no sense." If it does, I owe you a Coke.
Not many people know that the game Battleship was originally a pad and pencil game published by Milton Bradley Company in 1931. It wasn't until years later that it became such a model of sleek simplicity. A solid red box and a solid blue box. Each open to reveal two aqua tinted, transparent grids. There are red pegs for hits and white ones for misses. Each box comes with five ships. Even the pad and pencil version wasted paper. This updated version was and is flawless for it's design and simple idea.
Martin Klimas fits this mold, as well. I found his work while flipping through a magazine one day. His idea is simple, the execution is not difficult, once established, and the payoff is genius. His work also shows that not all good ideas are complicated.