On education in Europe and the USA

Clever Magazine
Student life Art&Fashion Angelina Nikonova

Exploring Careers in the Art Field: A Comprehensive Guide

The article offers a comprehensive exploration of careers in the art field, illuminating the various art field jobs within an art gallery. It goes beyond the well-known positions such as gallery owner, art director, and curator, to shed light on the essential yet often overlooked roles including archivist, art handler, conservator, gallery manager, and gallery technician. The piece underscores the significance of these professions and the requisite skills and responsibilities, while also guiding individuals interested in pursuing a career in the dynamic art business.

Art director, gallery owner, curator: what professions are there in a gallery?

An art gallery is a diverse workspace that supports numerous professionals in the field of art, though the majority remain unseen by the public. Inquiries about occupations in artistic fields typically yield mentions of gallery owners, art directors, and curators. Less frequently acknowledged are the caretakers and the vital roles of archivists or art handlers. Despite this, the gallery stands as a commendable employer in the fields of art, and gaining insight into these less prominent yet essential professions is beneficial for those considering a career in the arts.

Gallery Owner or Gallerist

From my perspective, a gallerist epitomises a polymath, skilled in a multitude of areas and should exhibit proficiency across various domains. As the epitome of a career in the art business, a gallery owner's role encompasses extensive management of the enterprise, requiring expertise in art history, forecasting, business administration, and financial control. Notable figures in the field, such as Larry Gagosian, exemplify the impressive intelligence needed for these complex responsibilities, and for those wondering how to become an art director, observing such success can be enlightening.

A pivotal component of a gallerist’s role is making curatorial decisions, which entails the gallery owner selecting artists, setting exhibition schedules, and overseeing the overall curation process. As the public face of the gallery, the art director job description includes avoiding missteps in artist selection to prevent failure. Moreover, the gallery owner engages in art dealing, purchasing artworks, and actively participating in art events, networking, and press interactions. Responsibilities also include seeking funding through art gallery grants, all of which define the multifaceted nature of what an art director does.

The foundational skills for a successful career as a gallerist include a deep understanding of art and the art market, strong marketing and sales expertise, effective communication skills, and organisational and financial savvy.
I am convinced that the journey to becoming a gallery owner involves a comprehensive path, starting from entry-level positions such as an art handler and progressing up the career ladder in the careers in the art field. Accumulating hands-on experience in various gallery roles is essential for a deep understanding of the industry.
Education is a key element in this progression, with specialised programs offered by institutions like IESA Arts & Culture, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, and Rome Business School, which provide courses designed to cultivate the necessary skills for a prosperous career in the art business.
For those with a budding interest in the art business who may aspire to become a gallerist, starting with a Faculty of Art History and then advancing to specialised courses offered by institutions such as Christie’s Education can lay a solid foundation for this unique career path.

Gallery Manager

I posit that a gallery manager serves as a deputy to the gallery owner. Tasked with a multifaceted role, the gallery manager shoulders responsibilities encompassing the organisation of exhibitions, logistical coordination, public relations, sales, and personnel management. While the gallery owner tends to overarching organisational matters and renders final decisions, the gallery manager assumes the mantle of overseeing the day-to-day operations, ensuring the seamless functioning of the gallery.

Gallery Curator

The aesthetic presentation of an exhibition is fundamentally the achievement of the curator. In collaboration with the artist, the curator, often referred to by the art curator definition, orchestrates the spatial organisation, determining the sequence of artworks, selecting wall colours, deciding on accompanying music, and configuring the lighting within the gallery. The curator aims to convey the artist’s intention to the audience, fostering an experience that elicits admiration for the exhibition, embodying what is an art curator in their craft.

Reflecting on my educational journey, I consider myself fortunate to have had esteemed mentors, such as Otto M. Urban, Head Curator of DOX Center for Contemporary Art in Prague, during my studies at the Anglo-American University in Prague. Accompanying him to exhibitions at DOX, I gained insights into the meticulous thought processes behind each curation, gaining a profound understanding of why specific artworks occupied particular spaces. This experience elevated the significance of exhibitions for me.
As a piece of advice or a life hack, if you find yourself in a gallery, make an effort to connect with the exhibition’s curator. Curators frequently present at exhibition openings, offering insights into the organisational details. Engaging with a curator can transform your perspective on the exhibition and may even inspire you on how to become a curator.
I believe a curator must possess keen observational skills and attention to detail, qualities integral to art curation. In the words of Diana Vreeland, “The eye has to travel,” a sentiment particularly apt for those engaged in the creative professions and especially for curators.
Travelling the world of galleries and diverse exhibitions and paying attention to the arrangement of art objects, lighting choices, and sound equipment becomes pivotal. It is essential to empathise with the visitor’s experience, identifying areas where lighting may be inadequate or proper levels might distract from the contemplation of the art objects.
Numerous curatorial programs exist to nurture these skills. Noteworthy examples include the MA in Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art in London, the Master of Art Curating at the University of Sydney, the Master in Art Curating and Management at Rome University of Fine Arts, and the Master’s Course in Curating Art & Fashion at Istituto Marangoni. Each of these programs offers a unique opportunity to delve into the intricacies of curatorial practice, preparing individuals to navigate the nuanced world of exhibition curation.

Art Director

An art director is a creative professional entrusted with supervising the visual aspects of a project, ensuring alignment between design and artistic elements with the overarching goals and vision. The primary responsibility of an art director, as defined by what is an art director, lies in the execution of creative projects. Beyond being the principal designer, they oversee an entire team of specialists, including illustrators and graphic, motion, and web designers, which is central to what art directors do. Art directors typically focus on specific projects, such as advertising campaigns, films, editorial layouts, or other creative initiatives, encompassing all visual aspects pertinent to the gallery. Essential skills for an art director include proficiency in design, modern technologies, creative thinking, and adept team management.

For prospective art directors, several noteworthy programs can serve as valuable educational avenues. The MA in Design for Art Direction at the London College of Communication, the Art Direction program at the Miami Ad School, the MA in Graphic Design and Art Direction at the Manchester School of Art, and the Digital Art Direction program at Istituto Marangoni are commendable choices. Each of these programs equips individuals with the requisite skills and knowledge to excel in the dynamic realm of art direction, fostering a comprehensive understanding of design, technology, creative imagination, and effective team leadership.


A professional archivist working in an art gallery is tasked with organising and preserving the gallery’s archival materials and records. Their crucial role involves ensuring the systematic arrangement, accessibility, and maintenance of the gallery’s historical documents, records, and relevant information.

Archivists play a crucial role in documenting and cataloguing the art collection within the gallery. They support researchers, curators, and other staff members by ensuring easy access to archival materials. Additionally, archivists may actively participate in research, offering valuable insights for the gallery’s exhibitions, publications, or educational initiatives. Furthermore, they are responsible for upholding the gallery’s commitment to legal and ethical standards in the handling and retaining records, ensuring compliance with copyright laws and other relevant regulations.

The profession of an art gallery archivist is relatively uncommon, with limited educational programs tailored to archival studies. Individuals pursuing this career path typically obtain a master’s degree in history, library science, or archival science. A notable example is the Master of Archival Studies program offered at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, providing a specialised curriculum to equip archivists with the knowledge and skills necessary for meticulously managing archival materials within the context of art galleries.

Art Handler

An art handler is a professional tasked with securing and safely handling, installing, transporting, and storing artworks. Their role is indispensable in guaranteeing the proper care of artworks throughout the diverse stages of the art handling process, from acquisition to display.

Typically considered an entry-level position, the role of an art handler is well-suited for students seeking hands-on experience in the art industry. Specialised education is not a prerequisite for this position; instead, qualities such as attentiveness, responsibility, and carefulness are deemed sufficient to excel in the tasks associated with art handling.


A conservator within an art gallery is a highly trained professional entrusted with the care, preservation, and restoration of artworks. Their expertise is dedicated to ensuring the longevity and integrity of art objects, preventing deterioration and addressing any damage or changes that may have occurred over time.

To proficiently restore a worn or damaged art object, conservators must possess knowledge of the materials used, be adept at cleaning canvases, understand proper care techniques for art objects, be knowledgeable about storage protocols, be aware of potential sources of damage, and stay abreast of emerging technologies in the field.

For those aspiring to become conservators, notable programs are offered by institutions such as the Institute of Fine Arts in New York, University College London, and Kingston University (Historic Building Conservation). These programs equip individuals with the specialised skills and knowledge required for the meticulous care and conservation of artworks within the context of art galleries.

Gallery Technician

No elaborate explanation is necessary for this role. A gallery technician is responsible for tasks related to installation, encompassing activities such as the installation of lighting systems and the maintenance of gallery equipment.


The role of an editor extends beyond traditional domains such as newspapers and magazines. In contemporary times, major galleries often produce their materials in-house, expanding the scope of editorial responsibilities within the gallery setting.

The list above represents a foundational compilation of professions within an art gallery, showcasing the diversity and significance of roles within this field. Notably, the list is not exhaustive and includes additional positions such as SMM manager, assistant, caretaker, photographer, deputy art director, creative director, art critic, and more, reflecting the multifaceted nature of the art gallery milieu. These roles intersect with artist studios, art fairs, art law, and photography, further emphasising the interconnectedness of the art world.