What Does an Art Auction House Junior Cataloguer Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Old Masters Exhibition at Sotheby's
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Junior cataloguers work in art auction houses to assist head cataloguers with the behind-the-scenes details of auction sales. Their work includes researching property for cataloging, and it's typically conducted using online databases, the internet, and various print media. A junior cataloguer conducts extensive research to seek all available information about a work of art.

Auction House Junior Cataloguer Duties & Responsibilities

This job generally requires the ability to do the following work:

  • Verify artwork authenticity, provenance, and medium.
  • Compile artist biographies.
  • Write lot descriptions.
  • Vet property.
  • Amend the catalog.

Auction houses are the pulse and heartbeat of the art market. Sales here predict trends and can spotlight emerging new artists. A cataloguer's work is ground floor to some extent, but it supports the industry. Much depends on their research and descriptions.

Auction House Junior Cataloguer Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't cite salary figures specifically for junior cataloguers, but archivists, curators, and other museum workers earned the following salaries in 2018:

  • Median Annual Salary: $48,400 ($23.27/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $86,480 ($41.58/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $27,190 ($13.07/hour)

Curators were the highest-paid among these professionals in 2018 and earned a median salary of $53,780. Junior employees and assistants can expect to earn less.

Education, Training & Certification

Those looking for a career as junior cataloguers should ideally have a college degree and related experience.

  • Education: A 4-year college degree is typically required to work in an auction house as a junior cataloguer. Majors in art or business are recommended for this position.
  • Experience: A junior cataloguer should have some previous cataloging experience, but research experience and a history of working with various forms of data can be helpful as well. A publication record can be an asset for this position.

Auction House Junior Cataloguer Skills & Competencies

You should have several essential qualities to succeed at becoming a junior cataloguer.

  • Determination: A junior cataloguer should be skilled at conducting formal and deep research, not just gathering readily-available facts.
  • Writing ability: Being a highly-skilled writer who is able to write in various tones is key to this position.
  • A love of art: A deep love for and interest in the form of art that the auction house represents is essential.
  • Efficiency: Efficiency, multi-tasking, and attention to detail are vital skills for a junior cataloguer. Overlooking or omitting one small detail can be a serious mistake.

    Job Outlook

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates job growth for archivists and related professionals in the area of art at about 14% through 2026. This is above average for all occupations, but the BLS also forecasts that there will be significant competition for these jobs. This might be particularly true for entry-level positions.

    Work Environment

    This is predominantly a research job, and it can require working long, focused hours alone at a computer. Some minimal travel may be involved for purposes of interviewing sources.

    Work Schedule

    This is generally a full-time job limited to regular business hours. Showings and sales in the evenings or on special occasions can require nontraditional, excess hours.

    How to Get the Job

    SEARCH JOB LISTINGS

    Art auction houses often post job listings on their websites or on other art-related sites when job opportunities become available. Also, check out the Association of Registrars and Collections Specialists and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

    SELL YOURSELF WITH THE WRITTEN WORD

    Qualified applicants usually email their cover letters and resumes to an auction house’s human resources department to be considered for a position.

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