Should you work in a gallery? –


Without the skills to be an artist or the money to be a collector, you wonder how to participate in the art world. Years of babysitting and foaming decaffeinated soy lattes have proven you are a pro at dealing with the toughest customers. Your finesse and sympathy make people pay attention to you and trust your suggestions. When a friend’s gallery owner recognizes these qualities and offers you a job, it’s a surprise. You’ve taken a few art history classes, but you’ve never seen yourself working on the sales side, and yet you feel that with practice, you might learn how to close the deal.

Answer these questions to decide whether you should sell art or continue to roast coffee beans.

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1.You suddenly find out that you are the gallery registrar but have no idea what you are supposed to do. You:

a. Search for “registrar” on YouTube.

b. Start attending regular professional registrar conferences in Waikiki and Malta.

vs. Accidentally mark everything as water damaged.

2. At the openings, the gallery owner makes you pour drinks and fill the bucket with beer despite your erudition. You:

a. Save face by adding “sommelier” to your LinkedIn page.

b. Vacuum it up and do another ice run at Duane Reade by metro.

vs. Start a crisis and remind everyone that you studied at the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies.

3. You recognize an important art critic in the gallery who looks questioningly at the paintings on display. You:

a. Ignore the reviewer as his writing hasn’t had an impact on sales or opinions since 1993.

b. Approach him in awe and take a two-hour passionate tour with a press kit in hand.

vs. Take photos of him in secret and use your IG Engraver account to make fun of his father’s sneakers and smelly Kmart blazer.

4. Your odor-sensitive vegan gallerist ordered you to order lunch and didn’t say what she wanted. You:

a. Buy a bag of mini carrots (no hummus).

b. Doordash a Crave Case of White Castle Impossible Burgers.

vs. Order Cajun crab porridge for 10 people without extra utensils or bibs.

5. A gallery artist calls in a desperate moment to ask for money owed to him, hoping you will help him get the gallery owner to reimburse him for rent and medical bills. You:

a. Hang up the receiver and pick up all the phones for the day.

b. Call the accountant and have a check couriered immediately to the artist.

vs. Tell the artist that she was abandoned by the gallery with immediate effect.

6. An excited collector asks you if you are for sale with the art. You reply:

a. “Uh. Really?”

b. “Do you want to put me on a pedestal?”

vs. “The gallery takes a 20% cut.”

7. An angry curator calls to find out what happened to sending artwork for his exhibition which opens in two days. You:

a. Apologize profusely and remind the curator how important he is to the artist’s career and the gallery’s success.

b. Tell the curator to “relax” and watch his tone as the gallery is paying for the museum exhibit anyway.

vs. Be 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 gallery owner wants you to fix the mess. You:

a. Tell the gallery owner that this is her problem and that she should fall on their sword to regain the honor.

b. Spend the night with your roommate forging an identical piece to satisfy both collectors.

vs. Burn down the art warehouse so no one can get it.

9. The artist you have been assigned to manage reveals that he is considering leaving the gallery because he hates the owner. You:

a. Get on your knees and beg him to take you to Hauser & Wirth.

b. Tell all art handlers and book a front row seat for the great blowout.

vs. Convince him he’s in the best gallery in the world.

ten. You hear the gallerist use a racial insult about a recently signed artist of color. You:

a. Pretend you didn’t hear it and keep filing unpaid bills.

b. Admit that the “Europeans” are going through a difficult period lately.

vs. Exit immediately.

Hard Choices Quiz: Should You Work

0–4: It’s always nice to be recognized for your intelligence and common sense, but this gallerist’s offer may not be the right opportunity given your strong moral compass and the demonstrated indifference of the world of art. ‘art. Your particular qualities are best suited for a young, nonprofit or socially progressive arts start-up looking for someone who can charm the rich and the foundations. Remember, you might 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 kinds of surprises along the way. It turns out that not caring enough about speaking out against injustice or bickering makes you an ideal candidate to sell art. Not all galleries are bad, but the business is just bad, and for you, that’s a shrug rather than an outright negative. Keep saying “this is life” and you will always land on your feet.

13-20: Your ability to smile and nod in agreement while waiting for the credit card machine to spit out a receipt is what makes you special. Collectors love you because you laugh at their jokes and tolerate their trial and error. Your lack of principle may very well be your guide to domination of the art world, as long as you don’t learn to cry along the way.


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kurt watkins

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