20 professions in art that each of us could one day undertake. This is an overview of the main sectors, not an encyclopedic list since it would be impossible.
For each there are specific study paths and experiences that allow you to become professionals in the sector. You have to find your own way and do your best, even if it won’t always be easy.
Let’s start with those that are perhaps the most common but in my opinion also the most interesting.
Curator of exhibitions and museums
The first job among the 20 professions in art is that of the curator. Museums and galleries both in Italy and abroad usually employ a certain number of curators. These are in charge of studying and presenting the permanent collection. The job consists in getting to know the works of the collection in depth and studying the best routes for presentation to the public.
In the case of large museums such as the Tate modern in London , each curator deals with specific rooms based on their specialization. And, collaborates with external curators in the organization of temporary exhibitions.
In fact, in the last ten years the figure of the curator has evolved quite a lot. And today there are freelance curators who collaborate with museums and galleries more in the organization of temporary exhibitions. These are the same people who have to visit fairs, artist studios and archives to discover new talents and present their works. An important part of this work is writing the exhibition catalog or introductory panels for the public. The story therefore of his curatorial choices with the relative motivations.
A work that is often confused with that of the curator, but which in reality is in some ways very different is that of the art critic. In fact, the art critic must be seen more as a researcher. Often these are roles within universities. The art critic is the one who studies, analyzes and writes works of art, naturally making references to philosophical doctrines, historical-political events and studies of aesthetics.
Obviously, a curator who publishes numerous art criticism texts can and should be considered an art critic. And for this reason the two figures sometimes overlap. But art critics are not always curators of museums or temporary exhibitions.
Art history teacher Art
critics can rather be university professors who, in addition to holding their own courses, have the contract of publishing studies and research on the subject they teach.
The art history teacher is therefore another professional figure among the 20 professions in art. It can be taught in universities for courses in pure art history, as well as for courses in economics of cultural heritage and therefore subjects that are not strictly historical and artistic but with different cuts.
Or you can be a teacher of art history in middle school or high school. In any case, it is essential to stay up to date and involve your students. This is therefore a job that requires great passion and the desire to pass on one’s knowledge to others.
And another job that probably requires the same characteristics but applied in another context, is the tour guide. In Italy and abroad, the tour guide is the person who accompanies us on our travels or visits to museums, telling us the most interesting anecdotes and the most captivating stories.
In order to be a tourist guide, in many countries there is a need for specific cards that can be acquired through different exams from country to country or even different from one region to another. in any case what will be needed most is a good memory and a lot of passion for dates and anecdotes.
All these figures would not exist, however, if there were not something to be valued, told or cured. Without the artist, therefore, works of art and the 20 professions in art would not exist. Whether he is a painter, sculptor or street artist, each artist expresses his own vision of the world and society through his works.
There are two types of artists: the taught and those who instead attended the Academy. In both cases, however, the knowledge of materials and techniques is essential in order to find out which is your preferred form of expression.
Furthermore, the fact that an artist’s works enter the art market or are exhibited in museums and galleries allows the public to share and relive these emotions and reflections.
To support the figure of the artist there are also various figures of professional artisans specialized in specific sectors. For example framers, plexiglass workers and even marble excavators.
I assure you that in many years I have known many and very good ones. Often some works, especially in contemporary art, could not exist without the help and support of these specialized professionals.
And some are specialized in supporting artists or museums in the realization of works to complete the work or to set up the work.
Over time, however, both ancient and contemporary works of art sometimes need to be physically safeguarded or even retouched. This is where the restorer comes into play.
We could consider him a bit the doctor of art. In fact, the knowledge of chemistry, biology and physics that a restorer must acquire through studies and in the field bring this figure both into the world of science and into that of art.
Even the studies of art history, aesthetics and museology are in fact a fundamental part of his training and his everyday life. To become restorers beyond university courses, there are real specialization schools that then allow you to practice the profession. The entrance exams are very complex and the possibility of working is limited but this does not mean that you need to be demotivated.
Another complex figure to describe but fundamental in the art world is that of the museum professional. In fact, a bit of everything can fall under this definition and you really have to try to understand what you are brought to before imagining yourself working in a museum.
I myself worked for a year at Palazzo Reale in Milan and I realized how many figures work in a museum, besides the curator who is the best known.
You have to imagine the museum as a company, within each company for everything to go smoothly, everyone needs to do their part. The main professional figures in Italy have all been included in a real national charter of museum professions. This very detailed document was produced by the ICOM International Council of Museums in 2006.
Together with the curator, in fact, every morning they enter the museum offices: cataloguers, registrars who deal with loans and handling of the works. But also coordinators of reception services such as ticket office, guard room and equally important administrative managers and fundraisers who deal with financial management and requests for funds and sponsorships.
In addition, another figure that is often involved in museums is that of the architect who designed the exhibition. In fact, if the curator takes care of the exhibition itinerary and therefore of the choice of the works and creates a logical thread of presentation, the exhibition designer deals with how these works are physically presented.
Usually these are specialized architects and above all who have the ability to dialogue with the curator and help him in planning. You have to be very competent when it comes to displaying works, lighting and exhibition design. Your job is as fundamental as that of the curator, if not more complex at times.
Among museum professionals, a figure in its own right that deserves his specific attention is that of the museum educator. The main task is to take care of the educational activities of the museum. Obviously, in order to carry out this work, two characteristics must be put together: the passion for art but also that for the simplification and transmission of information.
In fact, to be able to be engaging in the workshops and activities that are organized, one must really commit to looking at the history of art and the collections of the museum for which one works in a modern way and to synthesize and transform the information in such a way as not to bore the visitors.
Many of the activities take place with schools, so patience and the desire to work in contact with children and young people is also an excellent incentive.
Besides being able to educate through art, you can also do therapy. The figure of the art therapist has spread a lot only in recent years. Studies on the importance of art in the treatment of different forms of disease is now a subject of study and scientific research on the subject is multiplying.
To tell the truth, I am not an expert on the subject, but I am the first to be very fascinated by the idea that art can be considered a form of therapy on a psychological level. Surely, being an area in full evolution, over time it will begin to require more and more serious and prepared professional figures.
Another professional figure among the 20 professions in art, more linked instead to the art market, which has been misunderstood for a long time or at least unclear but which finally also has a recognized role in Italy is that of ‘Art Advisor.
The art advisor is someone who, like a financial consultant but who knows the art market, the evaluation of works and the history of art, helps individuals or companies to invest in works of art. It is a very complex profession that can be carried out as a freelancer or for private companies or banks.
It has always fascinated me a lot and part of my studies in Economics of Cultural Heritage they were aimed at becoming art advisor. It could be the perfect job for a person who loves to travel, but also who never misses an opportunity to follow auctions, fairs and galleries or visit an artist’s studio. In addition to spending a lot of time in research and knowledge of evaluations, a good art advisor builds a portfolio of clients and establishes relationships that allow him to act as an intermediary in the sale of works and earn a percentage.
Certainly one of the most fascinating, but also the most difficult jobs in the art world, in my opinion.
Another protagonist of the art market who, like the Art advisor, must know the evaluations and always stay up to date is the gallery owner. Within a gallery, based on its size, there are numerous professionals.
Besides the owner of the gallery, you can find the manager and curators. Especially abroad such as here in England where many art galleries are real chains and not small businesses beyond the owner, it is necessary that the single gallery is managed by a specific figure. And for each group of works it is necessary at the same time that there is a curator who, like a museum, exhibits them together according to a logical thread.
Both of these two figures are fundamental above all in the organization of the gallery stands at the fair together with the registrar who, as in the museum, takes care of the handling.
I decided to include all these figures under the definition of gallery owner because the number of people employed in a gallery and the specific role of each one depends very much on the size of the gallery itself and sometimes on the country in which it is located.
If you want to start taking your first steps in the gallery then the advice is to start as an assistant. You will have the opportunity to get in touch with the works and to attend the sales, but also to travel a lot around fairs.
Auction house professional
Another workplace in the art world that requires several very specific professionals is the auction house. Let’s find out some of these 20 professions in art.
Again this depends a lot on the size of the auction house. In situations like Sotheby’s and Christie’s with thousands of employees, everyone has their own role.
We will find the curators always divided by specialization which can be by time span, for example modern, contemporary or ancient art. Or by type of art form, such as jewelry, multiples and graphic art or furniture. Or finally by geographical area such as African art or Chinese art. Their task is to keep in touch with potential sellers and buyers, but also to evaluate the works or take care of the order of the works at auction and the related catalog.
Curators are also sometimes employed during the auction to assist buyers over the phone and bid for them or in the room. In the case of large auction houses, on the other hand, there are even specific customer service figures who deal with the relations and registration of buyers.
Finally, being companies also in auction houses, there is a need for administrative staff for financial management or for the promotion and management of communication channels.
Art publishing professional
Another job that is perhaps considered less, but which I find very interesting, is that of the professional of art publishing. And for this I wanted to include it among the 20 professions in art.
After all, a catalog is created for every large temporary exhibition as well as for important permanent collections and in order to create it, professionals are needed to take care of the layout of the book, the graphics, the relationships with the authors, the relationships with resellers, copyright searches and more.
Within a publishing house there are many figures and moreover many publishing houses such as Skira and Electa or Silvana Editoriale in Italy are expanding their services and for years have been dealing with the organization of exhibitions as private companies supporting museums and spaces. exhibition.
Working in a publishing house in the art world does not therefore only mean dealing with the texts and objects relating to the exhibition, but could become the way to really work on the organization of an exhibition.
A figure who has always existed and has only evolved greatly over time in the world of art is the journalist. Whether you work for a small or large newspaper, the characteristic of a good art journalist is to be in the right place at the right time, tell the news and therefore have relationships with artists, curators and gallery owners. But above all, having a strong passion for writing.
If you want to do this job, in fact, you can’t think of just going around inaugurations and fairs but you must also have the ability to write well and quickly because the news does not wait.
Another figure that for about ten years has been spreading more and more also in the art world and falls into the journalism category is that of the art blogger. If you are of the idea of opening a blog, however, I suggest you do it with the approach of sharing your passion while working in the world of art in other roles, and not with the idea of making it immediately become a job. I am sure that collaborations and sponsorships will soon be born in the art world too, but at the moment he is not yet a 100% stable professional figure.
Professional in logistics or in art insurance
A profession among these 20 professions in art that I had never taken into consideration even after university is that of the professional in logistics and insurance.
Instead, during the organization of an exhibition in the artist’s studio where I worked for many years in Milan, I was contacted by the company that would take care of the movement of the works from the studio to the museum. Nothing out of the norm until I realized that the email was signed by a colleague of mine from the university who was now dealing with the logistical organization of these trips.
A job that I had never considered but that actually requires great skills: meticulous attention, a lot of patience and interpersonal skills. In fact, you can spend hours with artists, collectors and museum curators to coordinate the movements and get everything to arrive in time for the preparation.
At the same time, when organizing an exhibition, works must be insured and another profession that falls within the scope is that of the insurer. The higher the value of the works, the higher the insurance payment will be and someone will have to take care of it.
Archive Curator and Artist Foundation
The next profession is the one that, as I said, I have been doing for years in Milan, the curator of an archive and artist studio. There are some distinctions to make before you can understand what you are doing in practice.
If the artist you work for is young and growing but wants to devote himself to the creation of the works, he will need a person who takes care of relations with the gallery and museums and the sale of the works, then he will hire a studio assistant.
When the artist is already established or even historicized such as Michelangelo Pistoletto or Arnaldo Pomodoro , then he will set up a foundation or an archive to take care of relations with galleries, museums and curators, but also to enhance the heritage of his archive after years.
Here the figures may be different and in some ways based on museum ones, but with a much more direct relationship with the living artist and with a specific focus on his works and not on a vast artistic period.
Many foundations of great artists in Italy are however small businesses with few people, sometimes as in my case only two or three. It is a dynamic job, in which you have to be ready to jump from one project to another, from one meeting to the next to plan exhibitions or events both in Italy and abroad. And often required archiving capacities for materials and works. And every now and then also of communication and marketing.
Social Media Manager and PR
In the best of cases, on the other hand, both the artist foundations and the other institutions we have talked about such as museums, galleries or auction houses have a specific figure of Social Media Manager or Public Relations.
Although they are two different figures, they often coincide in small and medium-sized institutions. We take care of the site and social profiles and their growth, as well as the relationships with collectors or museums to always provide the same image of the artist or museum and promote the collections in a unique way.
It can also be a job done by a freelancer and that will surely be required more and more.
Lawyer in the field of art
Finally, among the 20 professions in art, in terms of preserving the works of an artist or private and public collections, another important and often little considered figure is that of the lawyer in the artistic field.
Whether it’s for a copyright infringement lawsuit, a fake or more commonly a contract between artist and gallery owner, a lawyer will always be involved. For this reason, both in Italy and abroad there are several law firms specialized only in the artistic field, which support every step of the sale and often the promotion and use of the image of an artist or his works.
20 professions in art. Conclusions
These are 20 of the main professions in the field of art that I have come into contact with over the years. It is a general story and for each one could be explored very much. Let me know in the comments of the YouTube which of these professions appeals to you the most. And follow me on Instagram to find out more about my tours of galleries, fairs and museums!
Thanks for the company and see you soon!