After completing a degree in fine art, Neil initially started practising as a professional artist, but he decided that he wanted work that was more structured with clearer career prospects and became interested in gallery management.
I was successful in getting my current job because I’d developed strong network links in the arts community locally and was prepared to do voluntary work to demonstrate motivation. Initially, I was employed to do general accounts and administration and this evolved during the following months into managing the gallery in partnership.
Good communication skills and organisational skills are vital for this work, as well as initiative and versatility, practical aptitudes and common sense. My degree in fine art developed self-motivation skills and an interest in and understanding of art, which is imperative. Other important skills that I’ve developed on the job include financial awareness, hanging work and dealing with accounts. It’s important to develop ongoing learning in lots of different ways.
Duties vary a lot from month to month, depending on what’s going on in the gallery. Immediately before a new exhibition, there’s an intensity and concentration on making sure the gallery space is ready, liaising with artists, and the practical work of hanging the exhibition and publicity and marketing. In the months prior to this, a lot of general admin paperwork can be involved, as well as selection of artists and also repair and development of gallery space.
I get a lot of job satisfaction from seeing the end product when an exhibition is underway and seeing the satisfaction of both artists and members of the public. I like the feeling of having been involved in curating a good event and I’m also getting satisfaction from seeing the gallery evolve as a result of my work. I appreciate being in a position to use artistic judgement as well as commercial awareness in the selection of artists for exhibitions.
For the immediate future, l plan to continue developing my experience at this gallery. I then hope to move to London to do a Masters in Curation. As well as gaining a further relevant qualification, I’ll be able to develop more networks by moving to London and this will help put me on firmer ground for progressing my career.
One thing about my role which can be a bit more frustrating sometimes is working with emerging artists who can be disorganised and unaware of the professional standards of work needed for an exhibition, but I’ve definitely made the right career decision as I get a lot of job satisfaction from my work..
Tips that I would give to anyone interested in being a gallery manager would be to try to go out of your way to help out at local galleries, preferably while you’re still a student, and to network as much as possible. Show motivation and realise the long-term advantages of voluntary work.
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