So You Want to Be a Gallerina

For the uninitiated in the art world, a gallerina is a gallery assistant, typically in a world-class gallery. The gallerina is polished, attractive and highly-competent. Looks count, but gallerinas are not empty-headed. For reference,  the Charlotte character from Sex and the City was the quintessential gallerina. This sounds exciting, but the competition is fierce and gallerinas must be experts in the business and artistic aspects of art galleries.

(Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

A Day in the Life of a Gallerina
Gallery assistants plan and oversee the arrangement, cataloguing and exhibition of collections. In conjunction with conservators, they maintain collections. Gallerinas acquire and preserve valuable items for permanent storage or display. They also describe, catalogue and analyze valuable art. They plan, manage and support events. Additionally, they are masters regarding VIP client relations. Smart gallerinas become familiar with potential clients so they can be of maximum support to the client and increase the success of the gallery.

Preparation for Career as a Gallery Assistant
Art gallery assistants possess an undergraduate degree in art history, arts administration or fine arts. A graduate degree is common. Writing, editing, Photoshop and database management skills are often requirements for this career.  Gallery assistants have extensive knowledge of art history as well as current artists. Most gallery assistants start by interning. The first real job will likely be at a smaller, less prominent gallery to build experience and contacts before landing the job as a prima gallerina in Chelsea.

Rising above the Competition
If you are fortunate to have connections, use those connections.  Reach out to your family and friends to help you get your foot in the door. Networking in the community is important.  Immerse yourself in the art world to become relevant in the market. If you are unemployed, pursue independent projects to increase your knowledge and to stay active. Due to a large candidate pool, this is a field where who you know matters.

Not everyone can be a gallerina. It’s a demanding and competitive job market.  With the right mix of education, connections, and style, this could be the career for you. Build a firm foundation with an internship and independent projects. Build your career from there.  There’s no better place for a gallerina than NYC!

Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at debra@careersdonewrite.com.