If you’re – like a lot of us – using this time to reset and have a think about what you want to do, like REALLY want to do, there’s never been a better time to look at a career change. For one, you have lots of time to think about it, to explore the paths available to you.
For anyone who is keen on a career in the arts, we checked in with the team from the esteemed Leonard Joel, the largest Australian-owned and operated auction house with more than eight decades in the game, to understand what it’s really like.
Olivia Fuller heads Leonard Joel's Art department, working across traditional, modern and contemporary categories to curate the house’s quarterly Fine Art auctions, while Blanka Nemeth heads up the house’s Marketing & Communications department.
How did you come to find yourself working in the arts and specifically in your role?
Olivia: “I always wanted to work in art, but I've never had a set position as an end goal,” she tells us. I've always tried to look at the industry with open eyes, and have made the most of my opportunities.
“After my degree in art history and theory at the UNSW, I focused on finding work in Sydney's commercial gallery scene. After a stint as an intern, I was taken on as a gallery assistant. This launched my career in the arts, leading me on to a position as a gallery manager in Melbourne, and finally to Leonard Joel where I now lead the Art Department.”
What's your go-to work uniform?
Blanka: “My black linen wide leg trousers get a lot of wear! I like to pair them with a simple silk cami and a blazer, with some of my favourite jewellery. Working in an auction house with a weekly jewellery auction, my collection is rapidly expanding and I love getting wear out of my pieces. I'll throw on a pair of chunky heels, grab my tan leather tote bag, and I'm out the door.”
What's the most rewarding thing about doing what you do?
Blanka: “I love telling the stories of the pieces and collections that pass through Leonard Joel. Recently I was spoiled for choice with a brooch formerly belonging to Agatha Christie, an extremely rare diamond, and a beautiful painting by one of Australia's most renowned women artists from the late 19th Century, that has since been donated to the NGV for the public to enjoy. There are always new histories to uncover.
Olivia: “I love the variety of what my day might involve. From looking at a 19th Century painting to a limited edition Banksy, it's never dull.”
Hot tips for young players - what's your top 5 need-to-knows for those looking for an 'in' to the arts?
“One, immerse yourself in the creative scene (whether that's in person at gallery openings, or online, supporting your favourite artists.)
“Volunteer at arts organisations if you can. This can be a great opportunity to get a feel for what it's like to work in the industry, and make some connections.” Just because we’re in lockdown, doesn’t mean you can’t reach out. Get in touch with galleries on Instagram.
“Also, it never hurts to do your research. Study, read books or talk to others within the industry. If it's a topic you love, it should be an enjoyable and ongoing journey of learning and expanding your knowledge.”
“The art world can be an interconnected network so don't be afraid to broaden your horizons and explore an area of the industry you may not have considered.
And, finally: “Persevere! Like any industry, the competition can be challenging, but as many of the world's best artists know, success doesn't always come easy. “
Sick of looking at blank walls? Good news: Leonard Joel Prints & Multiples auction is coming up on April 8, and among the collection are the works produced by Spencer Tunick for our WE ARE HUMAN campaign a few months back. Check them out here and here. This is the first time (ever) Tunick’s work have been available on the secondary market.
In better news still, 100 per cent of proceeds from the sale of these works will be donated to our charity partner, Thread Together, as they continue their work helping those who need it most, deliver new clothes and shoes to those in the community who are doing it tough – including those affected by the recent bushfires, the unemployed, those in emergency accommodation and many more that may find themselves vulnerable during our current global health crisis.