The Baerfaxt writes that, according to a study by Thomas & Associates, 77 percent of professionals who work in international museums, galleries, auction houses, foundations, and performing arts centers said they were planning on staying in their current position for five years or less “due to lack of career advancement and other opportunities.” I guess this includes much of the art world. It shows that, contrary to all recent exhortations about the professionalization of the arts, we still have a long way to go.
I know, just by listening to anecdotal chatter, that many young artists coming out of art schools do not count on pursuing art as a career for too long. They count on doing the art thing for a while, then getting a real job. They are well aware that youth is the prime commodity in the global art world, and that the logistics of party-going and biennale-hopping do not mesh smoothly with adult lives. The new study indicates that much the same is true for the commercial and administrative personnel of the art world. Selective press reporting has given rise to an image of the artworld as a mature professional milieu, like dentistry or accounting – well, let’s say like advertising or magazine editing – where a secure living can be made and a satisfying sense of progression can be achieved by those who are talented, credentialed, and connected enough. That may be true for a select few.
But much of this “profession” still seems to be a way station for urbane twenty-somethings emerging out of good colleges who love the lifestyle for a while, but then get fed up when they realize that the ladder of advancement in a commercial gallery amounts to “get your own gallery.” Or when they confront the sad fact that their museum salaries amount to one-fourth of what their former classmates are getting in their first year out of law school. This is no way to run a global cultural industry. You can’t have disgruntled amateurs minding the store. For nonprofits and commercial entities alike, it would be a wise move to start behaving like a real industry. Invest in the talent.