How to develop your career in art

Whether you’re studying art or want to get your work seen by a larger audience, there are many steps you can take to help develop your career. We ask art world professionals and graduates for their advice and experiences in getting organised and starting out.

How to promote yourself:

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 daunting when starting out, but it is imperative for any artist who wants to grow an audience.

Here are a few tips for promoting your work:

  • Your CV. Ensure your CV is accurate and up to date. In general, a good CV must include your contact details, education, exhibitions and other arts-related professional activities. We advise making multiple versions that are tailored according to circumstance.
  • Artists’ statement. This should be concise and in plain English, preferably in the third 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 in a spreadsheet with your name, title, date, material and dimensions, in that order. Digital formats are increasingly popular and are often the first way people experience your work, so high-quality images are critical.
  • Social Media. The best platform for artists is Instagram because it is visual. There are differing opinions but, generally, your artist Instagram account should feature only your work and perhaps exhibitions you have seenWhen showing your work, be sure the caption includes the medium, dimensions and any other information behind the work in the post. Giving context is critical too, installation shots in a gallery are great way to do this.

Tag people and use hashtags that are appropriate; the more you engage with social media the more you will grow your audience.

Advice from artists and professionals

Bea Haines, Artist and Royal College of Art graduate:

“Find out as much as possible about the exhibition space and the other artists before committing to an application. One exhibition she describes was in a badly lit railway arch with sloping walls. She goes on to say, “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.” 

Steve RushtonFounder of re-title.com:

“Join mailing lists of organisations 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 and curators and work with them.” 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.

Zavier EllisDirector of Charlie Smith London art gallery:

“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.”

Resources for artists

Excellent in-depth advice on how to prepare a CV and artists’ statement is available at www.artquest.org.uk. It’s also an invaluable resource for information in art law and insurance, and they provide a comprehensive listing of funding, residency and exhibition opportunities.

You can also find Open Calls and hear about artist opportunities on www.parkerharris.co.ukwww.re-title.comwww.wooloo.org and www.artrabbit.com. These sites will keep you up to date with what is going on in the artworld and link you to international exhibitions. ArtRabbit lets you search any artist so you can see where your favourite artist is showing and read about the exhibition. 

Finding Representation

A supportive commercial gallery is the ideal career scenario for many artists. Every major city will have several art fairs where commercial galleries hire a stand and show work by artists they represent. 

Remember that galleries attend art fairs to sell art, so this is not a time they will want to speak to emerging artists but introduce yourself at a quiet moment and follow up later with an email to thank them for their time. A better moment to say hello may be at the gallery during an exhibition; most people are open to meeting artists, just try to find a convenient time.

Prizes and group exhibitions

Entering competitions, prizes and Open Call exhibitions is a great way for emerging artists to show their work.

It can be time-consuming and costly so it’s worth being selective and applying strategically. Research the judges, do you want them to see your work? What sort of art are they interested in and does your work fit with their interests? Don’t let rejections discourage you. Andy Warhol once offered his work ‘Shoe’ as a gift to the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and was rejected; he famously kept the rejection letter on his studio wall to motivate him. 

The Griffin Art Prize 2017
The Griffin Art Prize 2017

Opportunities in the UK include:

  • New Contemporaries
  • The Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize

International prizes open to emerging artists include:

  • The Celeste Prize, open to artists internationally
  • The Aesthetica Art Prize, offered by Aesthetica magazine
  • The Hopper Prize, a funding resource open to artists internationally

Finally, the ‘jobs and opps’ section of Artists’ Newsletter is a good place to find arts-related jobs and Open Calls for group exhibitions.

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