Gone are the days of art professionals taking care of you. We are each responsible for our own lives and our own choices as artists. The sooner you learn to take control of your art career, the better.
Sometimes it is just a matter of looking at things you already know, and assessing this information in an organized manner.
Other times, you need to learn from the experience of artists who have gone before you, so that you can cut through the chaos and complexity to succeed more quickly at making a living making art.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, most galleries took artists under their wing, developed their careers and handled most or all of the aspects of showing and selling. For those services, they expected loyalty and took a small commission on sales. Many artists still want the illusion of security offered by representation (and some artists still find it!).
Times have changed... As the world embraced an entrepreneurial and individualistic approach to commerce, the art world followed. Now galleries come and go, commissions are larger and dealers do less for you.
You Must Make Your Own Career Decisions!
Do they want to sell directly to collectors?
Do they want the assistance of a representative, consultant or dealer?
Or do want to opt for some combination of the two.
Many artists still believe that all they have to do is create their art and success will follow.
Long term professional artists know that creating great art is not enough and that they really can't do it all alone.
You must take charge of your career decisions, whether or not someone else is working with you.
You need to operate an art business like any other small business.
This means that you must be able to handle all the different aspects of the business - most likely playing the roles yourself in the beginning until your business reaches the stage that it makes financial sense to hire people to be your accountant, publicist, marketing specialist, gallery dealer, and distributor.
There are now many sources of help for artists and art collectors. They are called art professionals. Some of their services overlap but most have special talents and distinct services:
Art Advisors purchase or lease art for private collectors:
educate their clients
acquire and manage art collections
install the work
rotate the collection
Art Consultants purchase or lease art for corporations, health-care facilities and other organizations in the public and private sector:
acquire and manage corporate art collections
install site-specific commissions
curate art exhibitions, produce art events
develop educational activities for employees, customers and the local community
Art Curators advise private collectors and museums on acquisitions and loans of art:
visit artists' studios to learn about their work and select pieces for exhibitions
evaluate art works that collectors wish to donate to a museum
select art from museum's collections to be displayed
organize traveling exhibitions
write about art for catalogs, brochures, magazines, or books.
Artist Representatives are private dealers who represent artists:
arrange and produce exhibits and meetings with individual collectors
provide museum and gallery placement
arrange promotional support, public relations
provide marketing services for the artists they represent
Gallery Dealers are retail art dealers who present quality works of art and guarantee authenticity and archival quality:
have expert knowledge and inventory of specific artists or art periods
have fixed exhibit space where they demonstrate their expertise to collectors, critics, and curators through catalogs, group or solo exhibitions.
The relatively new term Gallerists usually refers to gallery dealers who take a more active role in promoting individual contemporary artists, and not just a certain type of work. Their role echoes the old style galleries who took artists under their wings.
Artists who want to build a successful art business successful have to start by taking a hard look at what they want, why they want it. Then they must decide what it will take to get there. Success doesn't just happen while you are sitting around thinking about it. Success is not accidental. It is intentional and based on action.
Failure for artists often happens when they interpret common art career events such as lack of sales, not winning awards or not being accepted by galleries as personal or artistic rejection or they do not build resilience or learn from their experiences.
Attitude is the key to the ease of your career development. Your attitude about your business is possibly the strongest influence on your level of success as an artist. If you are totally committed (and most artists are), you can learn what you need to learn to have the career you wish.
Aletta de Wal, M.Ed. is equal parts artist, educator and entrepreneur. As an Artist Advisor she inspires fine artists to make a better living making art through personal consultations, professionally designed educational programs and practical independent study. Please visit her at ArtistCareerTraining.com.
This article originally appeared on Lori McNee's FineArtTips.com. Lori McNee is an internationally recognized professional artist who specializes in still life and landscape oil paintings. Lori shares valuable fine art tips, art business tips and social media advice on her blog. Currently, Lori ranks as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter & was named a TwitterPowerhouse by The Huffington Post.