In an ideal world, ladies in the art world would be jumping to mentor each other. Newsflash: there’s room for all of us at the top! Especially today, when brands are built around people and anyone with a smartphone can start a business. Gone are the days when the Miranda Priestleys of the world called all the shots and the rest of us had to grovel at their feet for a shot at an art career.
Unfortunately, not everyone has gotten the memo. While platforms like Girlboss are doing wonders to lift up and connect smart, talented and kick-ass women, in most arenas, competition is still the name of the game. This is especially true in the art world. Everyone is caught up with her own success, making it hard to find mentors that genuinely care about you.
But mentorship and advice is crucial to any aspiring art world girlboss. A good piece of career wisdom is like the North Star guiding our ships through stormy art career waters. That’s why we make an effort to spotlight fabulous ladies slaying art careers. You shouldn’t copy their recipe for success, but you can definitely take notes.
On that note, in case you don’t have Dominique Levy on speed dial, we’re sharing a fresh roundup of some of the best art world career quotes from the greats. Think of this as your overdue mentorship from all those internships you spent making copies and fetching coffee.
1) “Tell your own story and you will be interesting.”
– Louise Bourgeois, artist
In our age of influencers, micro-influencers and all-important brand authenticity, this is especially salient.
2) “The only rule is work. If you work, it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch onto things.”
– Corita Kent, artist
This piece of advice is dull but true. Whine about workaholic corporate culture all you want, but unfortunately, that’s how the magic happens. And how shit gets done. In the art world, this isn’t always obvious. It might look like nonstop private jets and champagne showers on Instagram, but behind the scenes, everyone’s working crazy hours. The sooner you accept that nothing will be handed to you—and start working your ass off—the sooner it’s going to start paying off.
Not convinced? Refer to the following:
“You want a hot body?
You want a Bugatti?
You want a Maserati?
You better work, bitch!
You want a Lamborghini?
Look hot in a bikini?
You better work, bitch!
You wanna live fancy?
Live in a big mansion?
Party in France?
You better work, bitch!”
– Britney Spears, cultural icon
3) “Follow your own voice, be responsible for your failures and, if you haven’t found your voice, work until you do.”
– Carrie Mae Weems, artist
4) “When I am surrounded by creativity, it triggers my creative mind and my creative juice. You can’t deplete yourself. You need to constantly refill.”
– Dominique Lévy, gallerist
5) “I’m constantly being told that I shouldn’t do stuff because of my age… But I still do it.”
– Petra Collins, photographer
6) “I don’t want to be good. I want to be the best. Even in failing that, you’ll hit a higher mark than if you never tried.”
– Grimes, musician
7) “Trust yourself, even if people don’t understand what you’re trying to do.”
– Judy Chicago, artist/feminist icon
8) Curator / educator / creative polymath Isolde Brielmaier on how she stands up for herself re: money or power negotiations:
“I try to stand with, stand in myself, as opposed to standing up for myself. It’s going back to knowing your worth, knowing what you bring to your table, knowing what your currency is, and using that as your vehicle and your tools in moments of challenge or conflict, or negotiation. Rather than be like, “Well, I’m not going to do this and I’m not going to do that,” say, “You know what? Let me tell you what works for me.”
It’s switching your thinking. Being like, “I’m not going to take that,” feels more defensive, and it’s almost like I’m handing over my power, versus, “Okay, thank you for sharing that with me. I want to think about this a little more. I can tell you two key points that really work with me. Let me give it some thought, talk to my team and I’ll circle back to you”—I’ve taken my power back, I’m controlling my narrative. I can’t control anybody else’s.
That’s one, and then the other one is, “That’s interesting, but that budget seems a little small. My typical range is X, Y, and Z, but let me think about the deliverables that you’re asking for and I’ll circle back to you, let me talk to my team.” Even if “my team” is just me at the end of the day. Polite never entered into it. I don’t want to talk about manners, we’re talking about a salary. This is about me taking in your information and figuring out what works for me, then coming back to the table.
9) “If you’re afraid to fail, you’re going to fail. You will not find your successes until you have experienced your key failures.”
– Elyse Walker, fashion director, designer and business owner
10) “Even if you aren’t sure of yourself, pretend that you are, because it makes it clearer for everyone else. Most people prevaricate. I decide fast. I think it’s helpful to people who work for you. The world we are in is about instinct and being fast and responding.”
– Anna Wintour, icon
Agree? Disagree? Want to share some of your fav career advice?
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Text by Katya Lopatko.
Image via @girlboss.