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.
Coincidentally, Art/Work’s choice of font suspiciously resembles comic sans and represents the book’s greatest weakness. Readers will find the typeface more than a little distracting, particularly given that most of the text appears in bold. But even those who have no interest in the art world may find Art/Work of use. Their instructions on how to pack objects for example, are so thorough, only the most dexterously challenged will find difficulty executing them. What’s more, should this book reach the majority of working artists today, the quality of gallery staff life would improve by a level of magnitude, if for no other reason than they recommend against shipping with Styrofoam peanuts. Surely the desire to eliminate this messy packing material represents one of the most positive effects of the professionalization of the field today.
As suggested in both books, artists and professional advice connoisseurs should supplement these resources with dealer Edward Winkleman’s blog edwardwinkleman.blogspot.com. (He incidentally also just published his own guide titled How to Start and Run a Commercial Gallery). Quoted and cited in Art/Work and The Artist’s Guide on such topics as resume building and studio visits, his blog covers the topical stories art worlders need for the aforementioned party small talk. He has also been known to offer his thoughts on bubble wrap, a perfect conversation starter for any art professional.