Updated: Apr 3
Art business matters… and art talents too.
What exactly is the career landscape for art talents?
What are the talent needs? And, crucially, how can we support the art business to move forward, onward, and upward?
Myths and Reality
“Making money is art, working is art, and good business is the best art.”
In art, the myth is driven by creativity, which goes beyond monetary value. The painful truth is that art needs money to survive. Despite all the idealist obsession of the art executives, we are all slaves of art.
On the art business front, there is a strong reflection of the myths from idealistic art executives who are obsessed by the glamour as art curators and artist managers: that the reality is art is a business.
The Primary Market
The New Gallerists
Notably, an array of international galleries continues to set up space in Hong Kong. Gagosian, Pace, White Cube, David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, and the upcoming Levy Gorvy, together with local and Chinese galleries like Hanart, Pearl Lam, and Tang Contemporary Art have stormed into HQueen and Pedder Building.
All these galleries have pressing needs for sales-driven, knowledgeable and well-connected gallery directors, managers and sales for the primary art promoting artwork and secondary market sale.
The scarcity of gallery achievers are evidenced by the import of international gallerists with their professional gallery management and art selling experience, as well as the driven mainland art specialists backed by their strong address book of ultra-networth collectors.
The Secondary Market
Art Specialists, Client Advisors & Auction Operation
Interestingly, the art business boom started from the secondary market. Auction houses, practically, set the foundation and the development trend of the art business scene. The rocket-high bids of their Sotheby’s 40th and Christie’s 25th anniversary sales were the visible evidence of the wealth of the Chinese new rich. The auction market is continuously blossomed with their international and Chinese auction houses, Bonhams, China Guardian,
China Poly, Phillips, and many other counterparts of size and nature.
In the auction house setting, there are traditionally two main streams of art executives: Art Specialists and Operation Generalists. With the fierce competition, a new executive category emerges: the Client Advisors, who connect and collect high-networth clients for auction and private sale businesses.
Art Specialists and Client Advisors are the core business getters in consignment sourcing and client getting. Driven, knowledgeable, and achieving Art Specialists and Client Advisors are always hot in demand. They are very much sought after by auction houses and international art advisory houses.
The Art Fairs
Fair Manager & Client Relations Manager
The Hong Kong contemporary art scene is energized by the active art fairs: notably, Art Basel, Art Central, Asia Contemporary Art, Affordable Art Fair, Ink Art Asia, and Fine Art Asia. It is followed by the blossoming art fairs in China: Art021, Westbund, Art Beijing, Photo Shanghai, Art Shenzhen, and recently Art Chengdu among others.
The art fair business is a tedious event-driven business, depending on the participation of galleries, collectors, and buyers. Key management roles include Fair Director, Gallery Relations Manager, VIP Client Relations Manager, and Sponsorship Manager.
The valuable assets for these roles are clear: a contemporary art background, event and sales experience, and impeccable client service.
The Art Museum Complex, Art Foundation, and Art NGOs
The ambitious investment of the West Kowloon Cultural District, M+ Museum, Xiqu Chinese Opera Centre, and The Palace Museum mark the global significance of Hong Kong’s art and cultural stance. Tai Kwun Art and Heritage Complex, Asia Society, Hong Kong Jockey Club Art Charity, Po Leung Kuk and privately-run art museums have a tremendous need for museum curators, management professionals, and technical & operation executives.
K11 Art Foundation, Swire’s Artistree, Nan Fung’s Mills 6, Kerry, LVMH Art Foundation, Prada, BMW Art, UBS Art and UOB Art are all actively looking to tap into art-related events and initiatives. These luxury and real-estate cross-over projects require commercial minded Art Managers and Event Managers to execute art into commercial traffic and income.
Art Banking, Finance & Insurance
“When Bankers dine together they discuss art. When artists dine together, they discuss money”. Oscar Wilde
Art has become a popular alternative channel for wealth allocation and investment. Art banking, financing and insurance have all spawned immense opportunities for creative investment bankers and private bankers to craft a new career path.
Whilst knowledge in art is desirable, the wealth management mind-set, financing skill-set and art game-set are the most crucial credentials for art bankers to excel. Art banking and finance arena is just at its beginning stage, there is plenty of room to grow as these professionals find their feet in this new space.
Art Marketing, PR, Media, and Logistics
The prospering art industry fosters the diversification and evolution of a variety of supporting services.
Art marketing and public relations agencies such as Sutton, Sinclare, Ogilvy CdD, are expanding in specialty and size. New integrated art consultancies like Art Partners, Collect Asia, and Art HQ are evolving with interesting business models. Art logistics houses are inventing integrated one-stop supply chain, art handling and online viewing solutions to cater for the sophisticated needs of the internationalised art market.
The Achieving Art Talents
They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
The achieving art talents are sharp and visionary art magnets, strong influencers, personable networkers, doers, and creators. They are creative art professionals and revenue generators who slave for art… and yet love and enjoy the journey.
Calling all art talents, embrace change, create and excel. It is the art of the game.