Hard Choices: Should You Work At A Gallery?
Lacking the skills to be an artist or the money to be a collector, you are left wondering how to participate in the art world. Years of babysitting and frothing decaf soy lattes has proven you to be a pro at dealing with the fussiest of customers. Your finesse and likability make people pay attention to you and trust your suggestions. When a friend’s gallerist recognizes these qualities and offers you a job, it comes as something of a surprise. You took a couple of art history classes but never saw yourself working on the sales side of things, and yet you sense that with practice you could learn how to seal the deal.
Answer these questions to decide if you should sell art or keep roasting coffee beans.
1.You suddenly find that you are the gallery’s registrar but have no idea what you are supposed to be doing. You:
a. Look up “registrar” on YouTube.
b. Start regularly attending professional registrar conferences in Waikiki and Malta.
c. Accidentally mark everything as water damaged.
2. At openings, the gallerist makes you pour drinks and refill the beer bucket despite your erudition. You:
a. Save face by adding “sommelier” on your LinkedIn page.
b. Suck it up and make another ice run at the Duane Reade by the subway.
c. Throw a fit and remind everyone that you studied at Bard Center for Curatorial Studies.
3. You recognize an important art critic in the gallery staring quizzically at the paintings on exhibit. You:
a. Ignore the critic because his writing hasn’t impacted sales or opinions since 1993.
b. Approach him starstruck and proceed to give an impassioned two-hour tour with a press packet in hand.
c. Secretly take photos of him and use your burner IG account to deride his dad sneakers and smelly Kmart blazer.
4. Your odor-sensitive vegan gallerist tasked you with ordering lunch and didn’t say what she wants. You:
a. Buy a bag of baby carrots (no hummus).
b. Doordash a Crave Case of White Castle Impossible Burgers.
c. Order a 10-person Cajun crab boil with no utensils and extra bibs.
5. A gallery artist calls in a desperate moment to ask about money she is owed, hoping you will help her get the gallerist to pay her back rent and medical bills. You:
a. Slam down the receiver and take all phones off the hook for the day.
b. Call the accountant and have a check immediately sent by messenger to the artist.
c. Tell the artist she has been dropped by the gallery effective immediately.
6. A randy collector asks you if you are for sale along with the art. You respond:
a. “Eww. Really?”
b. “Will you put me on a pedestal?”
c. “The gallery takes a 20% cut.”
7. An angry curator calls wanting to know what happened to the art shipment for his show that opens in two days. You:
a. Apologize profusely and remind the curator how important he is to the career of the artist and success of the gallery.
b. Tell the curator “to chill” and watch his tone because the gallery is basically paying for the museum show anyway.
c. Make sure to seat the curator at the losers’ table at the next gallery dinner.
8. The same artwork was accidentally sold to two different collectors and the gallerist wants you to clean up the mess. You:
a. Tell the gallerist it’s her problem and she should fall on their sword to regain honor.
b. Spend all night with your roommate forging an identical piece to satisfy both collectors.
c. Burn down the art storage facility so that no one can have it.
9. The artist you have been tasked to handle reveals that he is planning on leaving the gallery because he hates the owner. You:
a. Get on your knees and beg for him to take you along to Hauser & Wirth.
b. Tell all the art handlers and reserve a front row seat for the big blowout.
c. Convince him that he is at the best gallery in the world.
10. You hear the gallery owner use a racial slur about a recently signed artist of color. You:
a. Pretend you didn’t hear it and keep filing unpaid invoices.
b. Agree that “Europeans” are having a tough time lately.
c. Quit on the spot.
0–4: It’s always nice to be acknowledged for your smarts and savvy, but this gallerist’s offer may not be the right opportunity given your strong moral compass and the art world’s demonstrated indifference. Your special qualities are better suited for a fledgling nonprofit or socially progressive arts start-up that is seeking someone who can charm rich people and foundations. Remember, you may be the only person who can explain the need to support sound art to a confused collector.
5–12: Maintaining an agnostic approach to life allows for all sorts of surprises along the way. It turns out that not caring enough to call out injustice or chicanery makes you a perfect candidate to sell art. Not every gallery is bad, but the business is just rotten, and for you this is a shoulder-shrugging given rather than an outright negative. Keep saying “c’est la vie” and you’ll always land on your feet.
13–20: Your ability to smile and nod your head in agreement while waiting for the credit card machine to spit out a receipt is what makes you special. Collectors like you because you laugh at their jokes and tolerate their gropes. Your lack of principles may very well guide you to art world domination, as long as you don’t learn how to cry along the way.