Art Dealer

What Is an Art Dealer?

For many of us, art is a big part of our lives – even if we might not realize it. Nearly everywhere we look, we’re greeted with some type of art work, from the logos on our t-shirts to the prints on our living room walls to the more extensive art displays in our local art galleries.

An art dealer is a professional in the art world that is responsible for buying and selling pieces of art work, like paintings and sculptures. Of course, there is typically more to the profession than that. Art dealers must be able to choose pieces that may be popular with the general public or pieces that a certain client may like. In short, they typically need to find pieces of art that are almost sure to sell in order to make a profit, not just pieces of art they enjoy themselves.

Successful art dealers often share a few very similar characteristics. Most importantly, art dealers must have a true passion for and knowledge of fine art, art history, current art trends, and the entire art world in general. They should also have excellent communication skills and be very outgoing, which will help them establish a large network of other art professionals. Business skills are equally important, and these professionals should be able to get the best prices on pieces of art and keep track of their transactions.

Work Environment

As mentioned above, an art dealer buys and sells art. A few art dealers may deal in an eclectic mix of art, buying and selling pieces of all different styles, eras, and artists. Most art dealers, however, typically specialize in a certain type of art. Usually, they will buy and sell art created by one particular artist, from one particular era, or of one particular style.

An art dealer career generally involves a good deal of networking. These professionals should be able to find and keep in contact several different clients, art collectors, gallery owners, and auction house managers. They should also be able to remember what each client and collector likes and is looking for, as well as where he can get certain types of art.

Find pieces of art work is often one of the most difficult, yet exciting, parts of an art dealer career. An art dealer will almost always have his eye out for pieces of art that he knows he can get a good deal on and sell for a profit.

When searching for the perfect piece of art, these professionals will often go to the ends of the earth – literally. An art dealer career often involves a great deal of travel, and these professionals will travel to different cities and countries. Sometimes, an art dealer will find artistic treasures tucked away in the most unlikely places, like flea markets, street corners, or backwoods towns.

Art dealers will also usually have more convenient methods of securing pieces of art. For instance, they may have a certain artists or group of artists at his disposal. These professionals will also often visit art galleries and auction houses to buy art as well.

The art world can be fickle, however, and keeping up with current art trends is extremely important. In general, an art dealer must be able to sell pieces of art for more than they bought them for, if he is to make a profit.

Education Requirements

individuals interested in pursuing art dealer careers should be educated well in art. Completing a bachelor’s degree program in fine art or art history is usually the recommended start for an art career of this type. Some aspiring art dealers may even choose to take courses in or concentrate on a specific art period, art style, or artist during this time.

Although a bachelor’s degree may be enough to secure an entry level position in an auction house or gallery, most individuals pursuing art dealer careers will also go on to earn graduate degrees in their chosen specialties. These advanced degrees enable them to become experts in their chosen specialties and gain a number of contacts that will later be useful in their careers.

Learn more about how to become an art dealer.

Salary and Job Outlook


The average salary of an art dealer can be very difficult to determine, particularly because the art world can be very fickle. In fact, because the market often experiences severe ups and downs, art dealers almost never earn a steady income. Some months, they may make a great deal of money. During other months, however, they may make next to nothing. Usually, an art dealer’s income is determined by the economy, and they will be able to make more during better financial times, when more people have more money to spend on luxuries like art.

Job Outlook

Many art dealers start their careers by working in art galleries, art auction houses, and museums. This enables them to get valuable experience in the world of buying and selling art, and they are usually able to start their networks of other art professionals and enthusiasts.

Eventually, many art dealers will start their own businesses. They may sell art from office space or their homes, or they might take a giant leap and open their own art galleries or auction houses.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not keep track of art dealer salaries, but they do keep track of the salaries of similar professionals. Museum curators and museum techs, for instance, had a median salary of $47,360 in 2017.

Helpful Resources

Art Dealer Jobs