Matchmakers: How Art Market Recruiters Find the Perfect Fit

Jun 19, 2019

In January 2018, the American Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the median employee tenure was 4.3 years. This means that Americans change jobs, on average, every 4.3 years, which works out to more than 12 moves over a 50-year career. There is also early evidence that shows a trend towards an even shorter median tenure. Gone are the days of spending an entire career with one company. Today’s job market is all about making smart transitions.

Whether you are a job-hunter seeking your next position, or a hiring manager looking to fill a vacancy on your team, a recruiter can provide a wider range of options and help you make the right choices. There are several recruiting agencies that specialize in serving the specific needs of the art market.

Sophie Macpherson founded one such agency in her parent’s garage in 2002. She said, “I was told by three different recruitment agencies that there was no career for me in the art world, despite having worked in a gallery for three years, researching, putting together catalogues and selling paintings. I simply didn’t believe them!”

When asked why the art market - in particular - needs specialized recruiters, Macpherson said, “The variety of roles and therefore career paths is staggering, unlike many other sectors where the way ahead for any individual tends to be formulaic. Creative development needs creative thought and recruiters in our industry tend to be art world people; they know the landscape as they have worked in it themselves.”

The Benefits to Companies

In 2016, Julia Henderson of Drummond Read Recruitment and Nina Langford of Art//Work Recruitment joined together as business partners to create D.R.A.W. Recruitment. Henderson said, “Most clients in the fine art, auction and luxury markets are highly specialized and often small to medium sized businesses. Sourcing, interviewing, assessing and selecting the person who is the perfect fit can be a lengthy and time-consuming process.”

Laura Edgell, Head of Fine Art Services at Alchemy Recruitment added, “The art market is fiercely competitive, and our clients can often be overwhelmed with high volumes of unsuitable applicants. We provide a 'quality not quantity' service to address this.” Alchemy Recruitment’s Fine Art & Gallery Services Department was born out of the international agency’s existing specialization in Moving and Transportation.

To match clients with the perfect candidates, most recruiters start by taking a detailed job description. Henderson said, “If the client does not have a job description, or they have not put one together before, we can help create one for their review and approval.”

Then, the recruiters search for qualified candidates. Henderson said, “D.R.A.W uses multiple channels to source the best talent in the industry. We have an extensive database built up over more than 15 years of networking and meeting art world professionals worldwide. We also have access to other on-line networks, social channels and media advertising partnerships that we can utilize to widen our reach.”

Candidates are then assessed and interviewed. Edgell said, “We like candidates to display their knowledge and skills in a professional manner, with well curated CVs and portfolios, which we are more than happy to help put together and format. Alchemy’s clients include high end galleries, auction houses and museums – many of the heritage organizations we work with have traditional application processes, meaning professional self-representation on the part of the candidate is key.”

Finally, the recruiters help with the contract negotiation and signing. Some offer complimentary market research to determine local or international salary benchmarking. Pricing models vary. Henderson said, “We work on a contingency basis, which means there is no fee to pay unless our client is successful in recruiting someone who we introduce. We charge a one-off fee which is based on a percentage of the annual salary. This is invoiced on the start date.”

Most recruiters serve a wide range of clients. Macpherson said, “Galleries, auction houses, communications agencies and shipping firms form the majority of our repeat business, but we have seen a sharp increase in demand from collectors and artists for our services in recent years, completing the full circle of the industry and everyone operating within it.”

The Benefits to Job-Seekers

Whether you’re just beginning a career in the art market, or want to make the right transition, it’s great to have advice and plenty of helpful resources at your disposal. D.R.A.W. Recruitment offers a free e-booklet with tips for landing a dream job in the art market. Macpherson said, “Read, read, read. The more you learn about the market, the better. There are so many fantastic resources, articles, journalists and contributors that having an education on the art market is more accessible than ever.”

Aside from the obvious technical skills and relevant experience that are necessary for certain positions, there are other many other qualities that recruiters like to see in the candidates that they forward on to their clients. When asked what she looks for in a candidate, Macpherson said, “Adaptability, no two days are the same in the art world and laterally thinking, self-starting people will go far.”

Edgell said, “The art world thrives on contacts and connections and of course a recruiter in the market is the ultimate supplier of both. Find a well-reputed recruiter in a position to champion your candidate profile and you will be onto a winner! In order to achieve this, ensure your CV is absolutely polished to catch the recruiter’s eye. Make sure you cover your experience concisely without ‘waffle’, do not add floral language or unnecessary flourishes, it only detracts from your all-important experience. A quality Recruiter is your best advocate and will work with you to ensure the right industry professionals have the chance to review your skillset.”

Recruiters post open positions on their websites and, at some point, you may be contacted by a recruiter about a specific opening. However, Henderson said that most of their candidates come to them. To be considered, send your CV and a note about your interest to the recruiter. Even if you are not a good fit for the advertised position, your details will likely be kept on file. Macpherson said, “For some more unique searches we use our research team to seek out ideas, but our database has been growing for nearly twenty years, so we usually have the right people already within reach.”

Search for art market recruiters on The Clarion List, the leading online resource for discovering top-rated art service companies worldwide: