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Article: Developing a Career in Art

 

 
   

Whether you are about to graduate, or want to get your work seen by a larger audience, there are steps you can take to help develop your art career. As the end of the university year approaches, we take the opportunity to ask art world professionals and recent graduates for advice and experiences in getting organised and starting out.

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see (Edgar Degas)

Galleries, collectors and critics need to see your work before they can decide whether to buy it or write about it. Self-promotion may sometimes be overlooked when starting out but it is unavoidable for any artist who wants an audience and the following are the cornerstones for promoting your work:

• C.V. Ensure this is  accurate and up-to-date. It should be tailored according to circumstance but a good general cv must include name, contact details, education, exhibitions and other art activities.

• Artists’ statement. This should be concise and in plain English, preferably in the 3rd person so it can be quoted by others in press releases and publicity.

• Images of your work. Good quality, high resolution jpeg photographs are essential. Record all your work and file it carefully with your name, title, date, material and dimensions, in that order. More and more work is initially viewed in digital format, so this must represent your work well. 

 
   

Promote yourself

Excellent in-depth advice on how to prepare a C.V and artists’ statement is available at www.artquest.org.uk. Once these are ready, consider where to put them. www.artslant.com, www.wooloo.org and www.re-title.com are global websites that host artists’ profiles.

Rachel Hinde and her partner Steve Rushton established www.re-title.com in 2004 to present contemporary, emerging artists in an easily searchable and well-referenced directory used by gallerists, curators, collectors and media. Artists’ profiles are accepted by application only and there is also an annual subscription which helps to maintain a high level of professionalism that is trusted by gallerists and curators.

All these websites have an international focus so an artist in Chicago can be seen by art world professionals in London and Berlin. Research the one that suits you best and use it. It is possible to maintain a profile without a personal website although eventually you should consider one and an online directory will help drive traffic there.

Prizes and group exhibitions

Entering competitions and prizes is a great way for emerging artists to be seen but can be time consuming and costly so it is worth researching the ones that suit you. For instance, look at who the judges are, do you want them to see your work? Take a look at Parker Harris, www.parkerharris.co.uk who host a number of high profile prizes and competitions.

Prizes in the UK that support recent graduates include:

•  The Catlin Art Prize www.artcatlin.com, which is on at the Londonewcastle Project Space in London, 2nd – 26th May 2013 and

•  The Griffin Art Prize, supported by Winsor & Newton, www.griffinartprize.co.uk which is open for entries from 17th May 2013. 

 
   

International prizes open to emerging artists include:

• The Celeste Prize, open to artists worldwide and worth €20,000. www.celesteprize.com

• The Aesthetica Art Prize, www.aestheticamagazine.com, offered by Aesthitica magazine and featuring a range of criteria.

The ‘jobs and opps’ section of Artists Newsletter www.a-n.co.uk is a good place to find calls for artists to take part in group exhibitions. When Bea Haines graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2010, she set about entering a number of open call exhibitions. Bea selected those that were in areas of London that were ‘up and coming’ in art world terms, such as Peckham and Deptford. Generally her experiences were positive but one exhibition was in a badly lit railway arch with sloping walls, so Bea suggests finding out as much as possible about the space and also the other artists before committing to an application.

Bea also organises group shows with her fellow students. Peer groups, colleagues and friends are an invaluable resource to any artist and organising your own exhibitions with like-minded people is a great way to get your work seen.

Generally it is good practice to enter lots of prizes and open-call exhibitions. Gallerists and employers like artists who are independent and willing to promote themselves, however, be selective and research each opportunity carefully. 

   
   
 
   

Galleries

A supportive commercial gallery is for many artists the ideal career scenario. Zavier Ellis, Director of CHARLIE SMITH London, has this advice, ‘Visit all the art fairs to gauge which galleries have a suitable programme for your work. Join their mailing lists, go to their openings and try to get to know people. Find out if they like to look at new artists and if so in what format.’

Every major city will have a number of art fairs where commercial galleries hire a stand and show work by their artists. Examples include; www.londonartfair.co.uk, www.thearmoryshow.com in New York and www.previewberlin.com. Remember that galleries are at art fairs to sell art so this is not the time when they will want to speak to emerging artists. Go to the gallery for a private view or during an exhibition and find out how they like to be approached.

General advice

Recent graduate Bea Haines says, ‘On leaving art school don’t depend on your college to springboard you into the art world. Be pro-active and relentless in doing your art and getting it out there.’

Re-title’s Steve Rushton says, ‘Join mailing lists of organizations that provide art information and artist opportunities. Prepare for the long haul, and look for a job within the arts for your income. Be aware of the art being made around you, both locally and globally. Don’t do it alone - create your own network of artists, curators and work with them.’