Career Profile of an Art Gallery Assistant

Art dealer and businessman handshaking in art gallery
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An art gallery assistant works full time in an art gallery by helping the director operate the art gallery like a small business.

An art gallery assistant’s tasks include greeting visitors and helping them with their questions and doing office work such as answering phones, dealing with correspondence and emails, and other daily administrative duties.

However, unlike a small business, the art gallery deals in art, so the art gallery assistant also helps with shipping and handling of artworks, plus communicating with artists and collectors.

If the gallery attends art fairs, the assistant will also work with the director to create the gallery’s press kit and art handling.

An art gallery assistant helps with the promotion of the gallery’s exhibitions and will be adept at updating the gallery’s website and promoting the exhibitions via the various types of social media. Working on mailing lists is another big part of the job.

In some galleries, an art gallery assistant may write promotional materials and work on exhibition catalogs.

Presentation for Art Gallery Assistants

Many jobs in the visual arts do not rely so much on personal appearance, as many of these jobs are "behind the scenes," such as working as art handlers, art critics, museum registrars, and artists.

Art gallery jobs differ. Because an art gallery assistant is often sitting at the front desk of the gallery and is the first person the public sees, a polished and professional appearance is vital. Men often wear suits and ties, while women dress in a sophisticated style, with fashionable hairstyles and makeup. Even though artists may dress creatively or eccentrically, it is not too common to see gallery staff do so.

Art galleries are in the business of selling art, and since presentation is so important in sales, the gallery staff needs to be highly polished, as their appearance reflects on the identity of the gallery.

Note: Keep that in mind when applying for a gallery assistant position. Before the interview, be sure to visit the gallery to see what type of dress code they have and dress accordingly for the job interview.

Education Needed

Many art galleries require their entry-level staff to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in art or art history. However, work experience and proven gallery sales, in lieu of a college degree, are often acceptable.

Skills Required

An art gallery assistant needs to be highly organized with great interpersonal skills, and must be able to multitask on both short- and long-term projects. A gallery assistant needs to be an excellent communicator, being able to talk to a wide range of people without being flustered or intimidated.

A gallery assistant needs to be savvy with social media and proficient with commonly used computer programs. Being able to work independently and to take the initiative with projects is also key.

Duties Required

The duties of an art gallery assistant include administrative tasks such as answering phones and taking messages, emailing, maintaining the gallery’s mailing list, providing professional service to the collectors, artists, and visitors, plus keeping the front desk and gallery spaces tidy.

Career Opportunities

Many aspiring artists will work in an art gallery to gain experience in the art world and to learn more about the business of selling art. Some gallery assistants will work for leading galleries, and after several years will open up their own galleries.