Become an Art Dealer: Training and Career Guide

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an art dealer. Get a quick view of the educational requirements and job duties as well as details about the steps involved in pursuing a career to find out if this is the right choice for you.

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A good first step in becoming an art dealer is to complete a bachelor's degree in art history, which provides students with the artistic knowledge needed for a career buying and selling artwork. Having a specialization in a specific style or medium, such as modern art or sculpture can be helpful when building a reputation in the art world. Some art dealers have a master's or Ph.D. degree in fine art or art history.

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Essential Information

Art dealers buy and sell works of art through galleries, auction houses and private businesses. While some dealers may examine all types of art, others specialize in a particular media or era. Candidates for this job must earn an art degree, network in the art community and gain experience to progress in this profession.

Required Education A bachelor's, master's or Ph.D. degree in art history or fine arts
Additional Requirements Gain experience
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% (for curators)
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $51,520 (for curators)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Degree

Art dealers must have a deep understanding of the work they are buying and selling. Many pursue a bachelor's degree in art history to prepare for this career; some seek a master's degree or Ph.D. Coursework in art history typically explores various forms of art from different time periods and regions. Some programs require an internship. Prospective art dealers might benefit from taking courses to gain an understanding of financial and marketing aspects of the business. They also might major in fine arts and work as artists themselves.

Step 2: Choose a Specialization

Many art dealers specialize in a particular art form, such as sculpture, or work from a designated period. Large, commercial auction houses and galleries might showcase and sell works of many mediums and time periods. However, an art dealer with specialized knowledge can set himself or herself apart in the field.

Step 3: Find an Entry-Level Position

Most art dealers do not start out in high-level gallery positions. Instead, they begin working in entry-level positions for galleries, museums or auction houses. Many individuals enter the art world through volunteer positions. Starting at the bottom allows prospective art dealers to gain the experience necessary to progress and learn from experts within the industry.

Step 4: Make Contacts

Early in their careers, art dealers should make connections in the art community. They might network with artists and collectors, meet contacts through social events or expand their circles by working in more than one museum, gallery or auction house. By establishing trusted connections, art dealers can ensure that they are buying and selling works at an appropriate value.

Step 5: Advance in the Field

Art dealers must establish their reputation and gain clientele to move up in the field. By proving themselves to be professional, honest and knowledgeable, they might advance to higher positions or larger workplaces or set out on their own.

Step 6: Get a Job

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't collect employment and wage information specifically for art dealers, the BLS does offer employment and wage details for closely related job titles, such as curator and gallery director. According to the BLS, jobs in this field are expected to see an average increase, of 8%, from 2014-2024, and the median salary for these workers was $51,520 in 2015.

An art dealer can work with a private business, artist, auction house or art gallery. Many begin their careers in a volunteer role at a museum or gallery, where they gain valuable experience from industry experts. Trustworthiness, professionalism and excellent communication skills are essential for success as an art dealer, as dealers are required to attend social events and have regular contact with artists, collectors, and other community members.

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