The most comprehensive guide of its kind, Art/Work gives artists of every level the tools they need to make it in an art world so competitive one dealer likens it to “The Sopranos, except nobody gets killed.” Whether you’re an art school grad looking for a gallery, a mid-career artist managing a busy studio, or someone just thinking about becoming a professional artist, this indispensable resource will help you build your career and protect yourself along the way.
Unlike other creative professionals, visual artists don’t have agents or managers. You have to do it all yourself, at least until you find gallery representation — and even then, there are important business and legal issues you need to understand to stay in control of your career and ensure you’re being treated fairly. Heather Darcy Bhandari, a gallery director, and Jonathan Melber, an arts lawyer, walk you through these issues so that you can essentially act as your own manager and agent. They show you, for example, how to tackle business basics such as tracking inventory and preparing invoices; how to take legal precautions like registering a copyright and drafting consignment forms; how to use promotional tools like websites and business cards; and how to approach career decisions such as choosing the right venue to show your work.
Neoteric Art: What was your inspiration for publishing your book “Art/Work”?
Heather Darcy Bhandari: Jonathan and I met on the first day of college at Brown University and we’ve been close friends ever since. It’s funny to think back and see how far we’ve come! It did make the process of writing with a partner easy though–we could be really honest with each other and worked really well together.
When we set out to write the book, we looked into what else was on the market but couldn’t find a book that was clear, practical and easy to use. We didn’t want artists to have to read the text from cover to cover and we didn’t feel the need to be inspirational. Instead, we wanted Art/Work to be a useful workbook with moments of levity, written in language that was easy to understand.
Unlike the other books out there, we were able to draw on my experience as an MFA graduate turned gallery director and Jonathan’s experience as an arts lawyer. The two perspectives, in combination, provide the strongest gallery and contracts sections out there. In addition, we interviewed around 100 prominent arts professionals across the country to get their perspectives and advice–dealers, curators, artists, non-profit administrators–and we include their most interesting quotes throughout Art/Work. In the end, we were able to capture a wide range of opinions that offer a more complex understanding of the subjects covered.
As an arts lawyer and gallery director, we are passionate about helping artists. We both know a lot of artists, and they often ask us questions related to their careers. We realized, after answering the same questions again and again, there was a need for a book that would give artists useful, practical answers to their questions.
Visual artists do not have managers or agents, so they have to wear many hats throughout their careers. I don’t think business should ever be an artist’s focus. But I think it is important for artists to realize they are entrepreneurs and they need to take responsibility for their work. This does not mean compromising their integrity; in fact, it is just the opposite. Artists need to take control of the integrity of their work.
We hope Art/Work takes some of the guesswork out of navigating one’s career in the art world.