Despite the age-old cliché of the starving artist, there is a lot
of money floating around the art world. Conservative estimates value the yearly
art economy at more than $60 billion. Yet while a goodly sum of that cash flows
to artists and their estates, the ugly truth of the art world is that precious
little makes its way into the pockets of the millions of everyday employees who
do the vast majority of the actual work.
Sotheby’s auction house just made a bold move to lead the way
toward a brighter day for the art world workforce. The company announced that
it will begin distributing shares of stock in the company to all of its 1,662
employees as part of their compensation packages. Only a small number of
employees will not be eligible, because of the local laws in their location.
Those employees will receive cash bonuses in lieu of stock shares.
How much do the lowest paid individuals in the art world actually make? Typical entry level jobs in a blue chip gallery pay in the low $30,000 range. A report in 2017 by Artnet found that museum security guards on average make around $34,000. For perspective, the average pay for an Oklahoma school teacher, the lowest paid teachers in the United States, is around $42,000. That is the same as the average salary of a curatorial assistant at a major museum.
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