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Career Outcomes

The Top Seven Self-Employed Arts Jobs for Art Historians

While many graduates with an art history master's degree opt to pursue traditional careers in art history, the degree also equips students for non-traditional art history careers, multiple self-employment opportunities, and entrepreneurial ventures in the marketplace. The following seven arts jobs can provide freedom and a self-directed work environment to art historians.

1. Freelance Writer (Art Editor, Art Critic, Art Blogger)

More than 80 art magazines worldwide, arts organization newsletters, arts and culture sections of newspapers, and innumerable art websites all require consistent, high-quality writing and editing for arts-related content. Small arts organizations often find themselves unable to create or edit content in-house, which provides outsourcing opportunities for freelance arts writers. The Internet also affords unprecedented opportunity for writers with arts expertise to establish credibility, share opinions, and gather a following in the field, with the additional potential for advertising revenue.

2. Art Advisor for Private Collectors

Novice art collectors often find the art world intimidating and mysterious. Unlike other forms of investment, an art collection makes a statement about the taste, style, and financial status of the owner, and thus it can represent a daunting challenge for the beginning collector. Private art advisors guide clients through the building, securing, and valuing of private art collections. Advisors do not represent particular artists or galleries- instead they act as a client advocate. Typically advisors work on retainer, at a high hourly rate, or on commission from art galleries. Art advisors need extensive knowledge of the art world, good people skills, and the ability to help clients clarify their own goals and tastes. An art advising career combines multiple talents - connoisseurship, an eye for interior decorating, analytical and logistical skills, an entrepreneurial spirit, and the utmost diplomacy with clients, artists, and gallery owners.

3. Antiques Dealer

An antiques dealer buys, sells, and trades items of historical value. Dealers often encounter works of art in the context of running an antique shop, a store in an antique mall, or an Internet-based antique business. The role requires significant research into the background of pieces of art, furniture, and other memorabilia. Knowledge of maker’s marks, the history of works, art and design production materials, and specific areas of in-depth interest can make an antiques dealer a sought-after expert in the field.

4. Hotel Art Consultant

Art consultants specializing in hotel artwork serve as a bridge between artists and hotel clients. The role requires an interest in the works of contemporary artists and the interaction between interior design, furniture, fabrics, decorations, and artwork. Consultants must effectively communicate artistic principles to often non-art-oriented clients. Successful hotel art consultants also bring people orientation, an entrepreneurial spirit, and the ability to identify and sell potential clients on their services.

5. Arts Organization Consultant

Multiple art historians have made careers out of helping arts organizations solve specific organizational problems, expand their customer base, understand their target market, or reorganize the organization itself to more adequately use funds or reach their audience. Typically consultants in these roles bring an additional area of expertise to the table, such as market research, organizational behavior, or law. Alternately, consultants may begin by working in staff positions inside of arts organizations, and then later bring that experience to bear in an advisory capacity. This role requires extensive understanding of the practical and environmental challenges faced by arts organizations, excellent written and verbal communication skills, and an entrepreneurial spirit.

6. Artist's Representative/Agent

Artist's agents represent and promote an artist's artwork in exchange for a commission. An artist's representative spends substantial uncompensated time on the front end networking in the art world and attempting to bring high-profile clients, projects, and exhibitions to the artist, with the hope that it will pay off in future sales. The role requires an understanding of art and the art world, communication, sales ability, networking, entrepreneurial spirit, and negotiation skills.

7. Antiquarian Book Seller

Art historians may find a fulfilling career path in antiquarian book collecting and reselling. Rare books document and display the history of art dialogue and culture, and can provide a window into artist's lives and environmental context. Rare book collectors tend to enjoy the hunt for unique pieces and love interacting with the books themselves. Historically, this role has involved travel and searches through bookshops, and required a great deal of personal knowledge about the books themselves. However increasingly, antiquarians turn online to buy and sell rare book inventory, and to research purchases and pricing. A successful modern rare book dealer will combine interest in physical books with the technological research skills necessary to buy, sell, and trade online.

For more information, visit Azusa Pacific University's Online Master of Arts in Modern Art History, Theory, and Criticism.

For more arts jobs, check out these related resources:
The Top Nine Non-Traditional Art History Careers
The Top Eight Traditional Careers in Art History

Note: This information is current for the 2013-14 academic year; however, all stated academic information is subject to change. Please refer to the current Academic Catalog for more information.