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 numerous factors, including the artwork’s authenticity, provenance, and medium.
  • Compile information regarding the artist’s biography.
  • Write descriptive and engaging auction lot descriptions.
  • Help the art auction specialists with the vetting of property.
  • Helping to amend the catalog, if necessary.

In addition to research, a junior cataloguer must be skilled in copywriting, creative writing, and scholarly writing.

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 median 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 most highly paid among these professionals in 2018 and earned a median salary of $53,780. Junior employers 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: You should have a deep love for and interest in the form of art that the auction house represents.
  • Efficiency: Being efficient, a multi-tasker, and being meticulous to detail are all vital skills for working as a junior cataloguer. Overlooking or omitting even one seemingly 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 well 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—but there are worse fates if art is your passion. Some minimal travel might be involved for purposes of interviewing sources.

    Work Schedule

    This is generally a full-time job limited to regular business hours, but 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. You might 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 are usually asked to email their cover letters and resumes to an auction house’s human resources department to be considered for a position.

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