Art Dealer Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for art dealers. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Art degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is an Art Dealer?

Art dealers curate and sell works of art.They may do this by owning or managing art galleries, where they collect works of art and then set up art shows for the public to view in hopes of making sales. Art dealers may also work for individuals who want to curate their own private collections. They may seek out specific pieces of artwork or help clients cultivate their own unique style by finding pieces of art that they think may interest them. In order to find new pieces of art, they may often attend other art shows, auctions, and gallery sales. Learn more about this career field in the chart below.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Art history
Key Skills Communication skills, knowledge of fine art
Job Growth (2014-2024) 7% for archivists, curators, and museum workers*
Median Salary (2017) $45,446 for art gallery curators**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What are the Responsibilities of an Art Dealer?

As an art dealer, you would be responsible for bringing together sellers and buyers of fine art, such as paintings, photographs, drawings, prints and sculpture. You could choose to work in the primary market, selling art produced by living artists, or the secondary market for known works of art. You would promote the sale of art by exhibiting work in a gallery, in catalogs and, perhaps, online. If you owned an art gallery, you'd likely curate the exhibitions, displaying works of art in a complimentary manner.

As a gallery owner or employee, you'd be involved in establishing and maintaining relationships with potential buyers. You may educate clients about art and the value of particular works and advise them about side issues, such as framing, insuring, protecting and donating or lending art. Collectors may ask you to find specific pieces that they are interested in obtaining. You would search catalogs, attend auctions and estate sales, visit galleries, artist studios and art fairs and generally keep an ear open for available works for sale.

What Skills Would I Need?

An entrepreneurial attitude could contribute to your success in establishing an art business dependent on commissions. Excellent communication skills and patience are essential, as you may be negotiating with collectors who can be temperamental when deciding about a significant purchase or investment. You'll need an eye for detail to judge the quality, rarity and condition of artwork. If you are representing living artists, you'll need the ability to recognize new talent, as well as a willingness to take a risk in promoting new artists and their work.

Does this Career Require Formal Education?

To succeed as an art dealer or gallery curator, you would be wise to obtain at least a bachelor's degree in art history, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). You might study art criticism, research methods and conservation. A graduate degree may be helpful, but is not typically required. You may benefit from educating yourself by visiting museums and galleries to observe art firsthand and develop an aesthetic intelligence. If you decide to pursue a career in the secondary market, you would want to develop expertise in a particular era, culture or style or in certain artists.

How Much Does an Art Dealer Earn?

Your income would depend on the market where you work and the kind of clientele you serve. Most galleries take artwork on consignment and work on a commission or a fixed net price. You receive payment upon sale of the art. If you are working in art-savvy cities and are able to develop a wealthy clientele, you may be selling works for thousands of dollars. In the secondary market, artwork may sell for anywhere between $250,000 and $12 million.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You may also be interested in working as an art archivist, which generally requires a master's degree, and involves authenticating pieces or art, organizing and classifying them, and creating copies of originals. You may work with museum workers, like curators, to set up galleries. With a master's degree, you could also become an anthropologist or archaeologist. This career entails studying archaeological remains in order to better understand human history and the past. From artifacts found in the ground, these professionals ascertain details about past cultures, languages, and human practices.

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