Every gallerina remembers the day she sat down her loving mother and father and broke the painful news: their little girl… wants to work in the art world. Gasp! While some families are more accepting than others, we’re willing to bet that there are hundreds of broken families around the world that could never recover from the shock. Unless you were lucky enough to hail from a clan of independently wealthy bohemians, you probably have a similar story. No matter how supportive your parents are of your “unconventional” career choices, in the bottom of their heart, every parent has at least a couple qualms about the art world. Here’s a few ways your announcement absolutely, positively freaked them out.
1) They think this means you’ll end up with a “creative type.”
Your mom dated an art major in college, and between his perpetually gouache-stained fingernails and his perpetually empty bank account (his entire allowance went towards supplies, naturally—he would’ve taken her to McDonalds on their first date if it wasn’t so “corporate,” so beers in the dorm courtyard it was), he taught her all she needs to know about artists: namely, that they’re pretentious, poor and self-centered, and her little girl should never, ever under any circumstanced end up with one.
2) Return on investment.
Daddy didn’t drop thousands on your elite education so you can haul coffees and canvases for your skinny, bitchy, Meryl-Streep-in-The–Devil-Wears-Prada-esque boss all day.
3) Sex, drugs, rock n’ roll.
In their still-gently-addled-from-the-60s minds, working in the art world, especially in a big city like New York, means The Factory, drugs, Studio 54, drugs, booze, drugs… and more drugs. Not exactly what parents dream of when they hold their precious fuzzy newborn in their arms for the first time. At least they have one comforting thought to cling to: at least you’re not working in the music biz.
4) As a luxury market whose pricing makes no rational sense to anyone outside of the art world (or in it, for that matter), the art market is niche, volatile and seems to depend on the whims of the ultra-wealthy and the cultural institutions they fund. And we all know that, sadly, the arts are the first thing to get the knife when it’s time to tighten the belt. It’s not that they object to the arts as an idea—that would be uncultured and barbaric!—but why couldn’t you go into a less sexy but more stable industry, selling, say, commercial estate, or maybe rental cars? People always need rental cars.
5) If you worked for Marriott or Singapore Airlines, you could at least get them free trips around the world. You might be super proud of your new bottom-rung job at Hauser & Wirth, but what’s in it for them? A free Picasso? I don’t think so.
6) Did we mention the drugs? As soon as you utter the world “gallery assistant,” “Heroin” by the Velvet Underground starts playing on an endless loop in their heads.
7) If you have any significant career ambition, you’re basically stuck in one of the world’s several art cities. Chances are, you’ll have to move far away from wherever you grew up, which means long (and expensive!) flights once, twice a year tops. Do you hear that? That’s the sound of the dream of next-door country cottages with no fence in between so the grandkids can run around, climbing trees and being wild, smashing on the ground and shattering into a million pieces.
8) Also: as long as you’re doing the cross-country (or cross-continent) trek, what parent wouldn’t rather visit their estranged child in Bali, or Bora Bora, or San Diego, or Mallorca, or even New Zealand, than dirty, cramped, rude, frazzled New York—or worse, Berlin in January?
9) Not to mention cost of living.
In any city where enough rich people congregate to create a significant art market, rent, food, parking, and simply being alive (or so it feels) costs an arm, a leg, a liver and potentially a soul. If you’re bankrolling your own lifestyle on an art world salary, sacrifices will need to be made. To give you a little taste, let’s play a fun little game of would you rather: survive on one can of beans a day or live in the closet of a former—and possibly current—crack house? Oh, and did I mention it’s under a train? And above a 24-hour hookah lounge/*insert your least favorite type of smelly fast food restaurant here*? Would you rather: have a gym membership or a car? Just kidding, you can’t afford either. You new gym is hauling 20-kg sculptures and replacing lunch with a Marlboro Gold, and your new car is the subway, where, as a bonus, you get your arm workout in by angrily pushing tourists and people with higher-paying jobs than you out of your way. Is this the future that your illustrious graduation speaker was referencing in his poignant speech that even made your stoic father tear up? Who can say.
10) They’re worried you’ll end up moving to Berlin, getting some trendy spinoff mullet haircut and living in a rat-infested squat for the rest of your life. Don’t worry, mom—I would never get a mullet!
This could be you but let’s be real, you can’t afford a haircut:
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