woman art gallery

Dream Job: Gallery Girl

To gain entry into the land of the commercial gallery, first you must pass by GOD (Girl On Door).

After ringing the bell, it is she who will decide, after looking you up and down, whether or not to allow you in. But what does the Gallery Girl, positioned at the front desk, do all day apart from buzz you in and hand you a price list to make your eyes water? When I mentioned my job to a recent date he said in all seriousness, “Don’t you girls just sit around on Facebook all day long?”.

The common misconception is that the Gallery Girl’s qualifications are based on her looks, background and connections, rather than any academic credentials. “It’s not what you know, but who you know”, I was told by a good many people when first setting out on my chosen career path. Well, I knew no one in the art world. No first cousin once-removed now Head of Day Sales at Christie’s. But I was armed with a Masters in Art History and thankfully discovered that determination, hard work and knowledge take you a long way. So, I sharply told my date, “I absolutely do not sit around on Facebook all day”, before explaining to him exactly what I do. To provide him with an overview I described the weekly Monday morning meeting…

It begins with the Gallery Director at 9:30am. The first thing he wants to know is which museum exhibitions and commercial shows I have seen over the last week. I must be able to advise clients what to see and which new artists to buy from. This means outside of my hours at the gallery I make studio visits, meeting often very eccentric, at times drunk and always very interesting artists, before recommending their work. We then discuss any upcoming auctions. He wants to know if I have I found anything that we should bid on. Perhaps an early Fauve painting or an important Impressionist landscape.

If we have recently bought new works, I am asked if I need to go to the library to research them. I often spend a day in the V&A’s National Art Library (pretending to be a student again). I must find out the significance of the art work, if it has been shown in any exhibitions, and its provenance (who has previously owned it). This means that when we exhibit the work in the gallery or at an art fair (in New York, Miami, Paris, London or Maastricht) we can tell the client why they should buy this painting for half a million dollars. For each new work I also make sure we have a certificate of authentication, by sending images and details to numerous specialists who will authorise it. Often the experts are related to the artist, so I may need to speak with Chagall’s granddaughter or Monet’s great niece.

The Director will then ask how preparations for any upcoming exhibitions are going. Have I written the press release? Sent out all the invitations? Spoken to all the relevant journalists? Written the catalogue? Prepared the price list and wall labels? Updated our website?

I didn’t want to scare off my date, who was looking quite sheepish by this point, so I thought it was best to stop there. But, unable to help myself, I curtly added, “So when a Gallery Girl looks up from her computer at a client entering the gallery, chances are you’ve found her actually doing her job”.

I didn’t see him again.

Written by:

Sophia works as a Modern British art dealer in Mayfair. Outside of the gallery she is frequently found at exhibitions and in the auction rooms. She is also in the process of completing a research PhD in dating, taking as her specialist topic London’s most eligible bachelors.

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