How to Be an Art Professional as the Economy Crumbles

08/05/2009 12:36 AM |

Art world activity may slow to a near stop during the summer, but this won’t hinder the wheels of the latest discussion within the field: its professionalization. Given the growth of the art market over the last 30 years, thought on the subject is well overdue, though it feels slightly weird that it occurs now, one and half years after the height of the last economic boom. After all, these trends tend to slacken quite a bit when we have less money to court, in large part because the art world finds it tacky.

But books on this subject find good use during hard times, so it’s a good thing so many professional authors have found publishers. Amongst those launched over the last six months alone are Gallerist Heather Darcy Bhandari and lawyer Jonathan Melber’s Art/Work: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career, and professional art coach and artist Jackie Battenfield’s The Artist’s Guide (a book conceived ten years prior to its publication).

These books seem to cover everything an art professional might need to know (short of providing cocktail party conversation tips). Battenfield provides an intensely thorough and personalized guide to making money in the art world, while Bhandari and Melber draw on their gallery and law backgrounds to create the most air-tight studio management documents I’ve seen. Both cover topics such as balancing your time and creating a plan of action, putting together gallery submission materials, applying for grants and managing dealer relationships.

As far as guides go, I find greater affinity with the Bhandari and Melber publication, simply for its reference resource structure: readers can skip from chapter to chapter as they need to. Given that the book is basically a set of instructions, it makes the task of reading it a little less tedious. Battenfield provides a little more information overall — particularly in the grant section — but her conversational tone too often feels like unnecessary padding. Why make readers do any more work than they have to, particularly when the objective is simply to create a set of actionable tasks?

Past this, poor reproduction choice mars Battenfield’s guide. It’s all well and good to provide an illustration of an artist’s hand-rendering of their resume, but as a model it lacks guidance. Certainly, it does little to discourage those inclined to combine the comic font with the ever popular shadow box default in their documents.