The pandemic has transformed the international art world. In many ways, it has accelerated changes that were already beginning to take shape: art fairs went virtual, dealers designed online viewing rooms and museums shared their collections on social media. Even the most traditional of galleries and auction houses embraced technology and used digital channels to sell online. Sotheby's conducted 250+ live and online sales during 2020, adapting to lockdown working and achieving $2.5 billion in sales. Given that much of this innovative way of working is here to stay, employers will be actively seeking graduates equipped for this new high-tech art world. But what will they be looking for? Ruth Millington, Head of Careers in London shares 5 versatile skills that help applicants hit the ground running.
1. Social Media
Even before the pandemic, there was year-on-year growth in online sales across the art market. But in 2020, all art lovers were forced to move online. In particular, younger collectors scoured Instagram for affordable art and emerging artists to invest in. Meanwhile, museum audiences enjoyed engaging with inventive collection-sharing campaigns, taking part in online quizzes and drawing challenges, watching videos and forwarding memes. The Royal Academy set a daily doodle challenge on Twitter, ART UK established an #OnlineArtExchange, themed each week, and The Getty challenged people to recreate classic artworks at home. Creating a social media presence will therefore be a part of every art organization’s strategy, providing social media savvy graduates with the opportunity to take a leading role.
As well as creating engaging online content, arts organizations must track the successes and failures of their digital initiatives to make informed business decisions. Analytical skills – the ability to collect, measure and make sense of data – will therefore be required for many roles. For instance, an analysis of web traffic data can conclude where audiences come from, what content people most engage with and which artworks are selling best in online exhibitions and auctions. If you can measure something, you can effectively manage it. Auction houses, including Sotheby’s, now employ Data Analysts, responsible for conducting art market research, providing data analysis and producing graphs and infographics.
3. Email Marketing
Today, content comes in so many forms: videos, blog posts, podcasts, infographics. But emails and newsletters are still equally as important, particularly within the art market where developing strong relationships with clients is key to success. As we all receive far too many emails, excellent copywriting skills will ensure your message doesn’t end up in spam. If you can write a catchy title and strong opening line to grab a journalist’s attention, personalise a persuasive message to a collector or send an engaging, well-designed newsletter to a museum audience, you’re sure to impress at the interview. If you’re not already signed up, it's worth subscribing to maxwell museums, for news on the museum sector, brand new The Canvas offers insights across the art world, and Art Monthly, filled with job vacancies, exhibition opportunities, residencies and competitions.
Despite being over 30 years old, Microsoft Excel remains the one of the most in-demand softwares for graduate proficiency. Being able to record and sort data on a spreadsheet is an essential part of many job roles. Whether tasked with documenting visitor numbers within a museum, recording project costs for an art fair or tracking current market prices for an auction house department, Excel will be your friend.
5. Digital art
It’s not just skills but an understanding of the new digital art world, which will be in demand. As Sotheby’s Institute of Art alumna Gabrielle Pucci (MA Art Business, 2019), who is Marketing Executive at Vastari, points out: "At Vastari we are constantly trying to stay ahead of the game when it comes to innovative technologies in the art world, such as NFTs, blockchain, crypto, and VR/AR just to name a few. Therefore, engaging with a variety of social channels (not only the classic Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, but also Reddit, Discord, Clubhouse) is increasingly valuable to stay on top of developing trends and hot topics. Having an ear to the ground and actually being able to understand/comment on these subjects when it comes to obtaining a career in art + technology will help immensely in order to stand out from the crowd.”
As the art market evolves at such a rapid pace, it’s not only digital skills but flexibility, an openness to learning about and working with new technologies, and creativity which will all be in high demand among employers. Therefore, there is a real opportunity right now for graduates to not only enter into, but take a leading role, in the new high-tech art world.