ISSUE 2 | VOLUME 6 | May 2017    

Art Career News – May 2017


Frieze Art Fair, New York, 2017. Photo: David Griffin

Since arts organizations and businesses are never separate from and always influenced by what occurs in the wider socio-economic culture, it took us some time to assess and to reflect on the impact of the elections and the politics of the current administration on the arts & culture sector. We decided to reach out to some of our favorite clients and colleagues to understand better how our community is responding to what may be the most tumultuous climate since the 1960s.

Deborah Fisher, Executive Director, A Blade of Grass ( sees that "more interest and engagement in social and civicissues is absolutely a general trend. It's like the new administration is bringing us into a four-year civic engagement seminar!

"A hopeful trend I'm noticing is increased awareness of and interest in the great community engagement work artists are doing all over the country, particularly in smaller cities and rural areas. This feels great. …. so many artists are engaging with lots of different types of people to solve problems and imagine a better future.

"Another thing … is increased uncertainty about what constitutes political speech for a nonprofit, and what role an arts nonprofit should play in the current political climate. At the same time, I also feel that art and artists can play a variety of roles in a strong democracy, and that this is a time when arts nonprofits and their leaders need to be particularly brave, informed, and supported."

Eric Gleason, Director, Paul Kasmin Gallery ( remarks that "Postwar and Estate Sales are strong markets for us…we're making an effort to rediscover Postwar artists, particularly women, who have become a strong draw for our new and existing clients. The triumvirate of recent and upcoming shows on woman artists from the post-war period – in Denver, at London's Royal Academy and at MoMA – have ramped up a new focus on female abstraction.

"Art Fairs have reached and gone past a saturation point – Miami attendance was down while gallery exhibitions have retained importance. American and New York collectors are leading the markets. We're finding that our clients are more deliberate – people are delving further into artists' histories – context is becoming much more important and our clients are interested in educating themselves.

Paul Kasmin Gallery's booth at TEFAF New York, 2017. Photo: Christopher Stach

Adam Adelson, Director, Adelson Galleries ( says "We notice from fairs attended that there seems to be a movement on the part of artists back towards technical skill as well as the concept. Conceptual art is still important, but with everything there is a cycle – people are no longer as easily shocked by 'shock art'. Alternative media is more popular, but still there is a trend on the part of artists to reinvent ideas about beauty and form.

"It's hard to think that fairs can expand any more than they have – you just can't see them all and they've become overwhelming – there's a sense that the urgency of a fair drives sales but there just aren't enough buyers and the overload dilutes the excitement. Over the next five years we think the approach will very different on the part of attendees – they will be more selective about where they choose to spend their attention, their money and their time. Exhibitions are always necessary – they create context for new work and new artists – and we're also excited by trends towards online sales and see this as positive."

Whitney Museum, Stella Show, 2016 Photo: Geri Thomas


Arts Funding. Funding for non-profit arts organizations now and in the future will need to concentrate on attracting individuals to give and to support their mission. Looking at a pie chart for funding distribution, overwhelmingly individuals make up 70% or more of contributions.

While governmental funding for the NEA, NEH and IMLS has been rescued until September of this year, organizations should continue to diversify their funding sources and concentrate efforts on individual giving and major gifts.

The Continuing Quest for Ethnic and Gender Diversity in arts & culture organizations and businesses. Somehow we can't get this right. We feel this is very often linked to compensation – most groups want their children to be doctors, lawyers and heads of Time Warner. In addition from our recruitment efforts for more than 17 years, many people tend to hire people just like themselves. For us it is very simple – just hire! And hire diverse recruiters who can reach into their talent networks for the excellent and qualified candidates who are out there.

Consolidation. A growing concern for mid-range and smaller galleries are the rapidly rising costs for space that are forcing many of them to downsize or close. Conversely, major galleries are seeing rapid expansion and consolidation. In addition, auction houses are taking on the roles of gallerist, art advisor, program and event planners.

Compensation. Museums are beginning to adjust salary levels to be more competitive and attract top talent, especially for senior management and leadership positions. In a highly competitive business environment, galleries and auction houses are wooing talent back and forth with larger base salaries, incentives, generous commission structures and perks.

Stay tuned!

As a professional at an arts and culture business or institution seeking to hire top talent or improve the overall structure of your organization, please don't hesitate to reach out to us for an initial consultation.

As a candidate, let us help you navigate these trends and help you identify and find your ideal career.

Contact us at 212-779-7059, and visit our website at for more information on our firm and services.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Geri Thomas, President
David V. Griffin, Senior Associate

About Thomas & Associates, Inc. /
Celebrating our 17th Anniversary serving the global arts community, Thomas & Associates, Inc. is an innovative firm with offices in New York City that offers staffing, consulting, career services and training programs for museums, non-profit organizations, and arts and culture businesses nationwide. In addition to permanent placement and executive search, Thomas & Associates also provides temporary and interim personnel at all levels and has recently launched its career advisory division and outplacement services to address the needs of arts and culture professionals everywhere.

Please contact us at 212-779-7059, or visit our website at for more information on our firm and our services.
We look forward to hearing from you!

Thomas & Associates, Inc. | 40 West 37th Street - Penthouse A, New York, NY 10018
Phone 212.779.7059 | email