One day last week while scouting galleries in the Lower East Side, I needed to take a break, so I headed to a bookstore not far away in SoHo. After sitting for some time in the art section and looking at one monograph after another, I grew bored and somehow ended up in the career section. I avoid this section like the plague because I feel like most books that claim to give good career advice to artists are completely out of touch with the realities a serious artist faces in the art world. That changed when I stumbled upon the very generous and realistic book, Art/Work by Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber. This book runs the gamut from having a realistic budget (which includes the reality of artists having a day job) and setting up a studio, to how to go about getting grants and other free stuff and promoting yourself in a way that is professional and acceptable. The last half of the book focuses on dealing with galleries, from group shows to getting a solo with representation, and all things in between.
In the margins there are quotes from artists, dealers, critics and curators, including:
Shoshana Blank, Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
Tim Blum, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
Rob Carter, artist, Brooklyn, NY
Michael Darling, curator, Seattle Museum of Art
Rosamund Felsen, Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
David Gibson, critic/curator, NY
Knight Landesman, publisher, Artforum International Magazine
Charles Long, artist, Mount Baldy, CA
Shamim Momin, curator Whitney Museum of Art
Andrea Rosen, Andrea Rosen Gallery, NY
Fred Tomaselli, artist, Brooklyn, NY
Hillery Wiedemann, artist and former gallery manager, Artist Space, NY
Edward Winkleman, Winkelman Gallery, NY
Michael Yoder, artist, Philadelphia, PA
To give a sense of tone, here are two quotes:
“When you look at the history of art, you see a history of mavericks, people doing the wrong thing. I wish that I saw more artists doing the wrong thing. That’s really more in the spirit of art that I love.” -- Fred Tomaselli, artist, Brooklyn, NY
“When you approach a dealer at an art fair, that blank look on their face is them trying to calculate whether they can fit your corpse into their crate and ship it back.” -- Edward Winkleman, Winkleman Gallery, NY
The book is broken up into sections so you don’t have to read it straight through to get the info you need. If you want to know how to pack your work in a way that is suitable and usually expected, read Chapter 9: “Getting your work to the show.” If you want to know what working on consignment really means and what the law indicates, read Chapter 10: “Consignments”.
The overarching theme of the book is the importance of doing your research. You, the artists, are in charge of finding the grant, residency and gallery that is right for you. Just because a gallery is interested in you does not mean it’s the right fit. Do your research, talk to your friends, watch and observe. Above all be patient. Sometimes you are being watched as well. Art/Work is a valuable resource to help navigate the many roles and responsibilities that may befall you as you move your career forward.
This book is not just for beginners fresh out of school; even mid-career artists with a ton of experience will find this book invaluable.
For more info fallow the links below.