Gallery salaries

Basic salaries for commercial art galleries in the UK taken from the SML Art Market Salary Report 2023. 

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Although the art market is generally seen as lower paying compared with other sectors, the very top firms across the world pay significant salaries.

The SML Art Market Salary Report 2023, compiled and published by recruitment firm Sophie Macpherson Ltd (SML) using salary data from 2022, gave an update on the higher end of the art market using data from base salaries (not including bonuses etc).

The highest salaries, as has been the case for some time, are found at the very large commercial galleries, particularly in the US.

The SML report said: “The marketplace is shaped by the continuing success of these mega-dealers, who emerged in the 1990s and consolidated their brands through the development of international gallery spaces. This has resulted in a top-heavy employment market within galleries, where the largest firms – who represent the biggest employers – continue to expand their global teams and hire more in-house expertise, sometimes consolidating with other art-world businesses to offer clients a fuller service.”

Following a near stand-still of hiring during and after the pandemic, hiring soared in 2022, with the rise in the US the most marked.

The report said added: “The US employment market is growing, with increased demand for exceptional talent beyond New York.”

It recorded a 200% increase in US searches managed by SML outside of New York. “In general, we have found art world salaries have increased in recent years, with the biggest step-changes observed in the US.”

Auction house salaries

Basic salaries for specialist auction houses in the UK taken from the SML Art Market Salary Report 2023. 

However, the UK appeared to fall behind. “We have recorded increased activity in Europe outside the UK. Between 2019 (a key post-Brexit and pre-pandemic reference point) and 2022, SML’s in-bound European business has markedly increased, with our placements on the continent increasing by 100%.”

The report added: “Since Brexit, and in the aftermath of the pandemic, the import and export of art has become more complicated in the UK. As such, the local job market is no longer evolving at the same rate, or with the same fervour, as other global hubs.

“One outcome is that larger international players have shifted their focus away from London and towards mainland Europe, with Paris and Berlin coming to the fore as key centres for exploration.

“We are presently collecting more data, but on-going projects suggest that art world salaries in these geographies, even in Germany where cost of living is generally lower, are currently at a similar level to those in London.”

Although many top base salaries reach six figures, entry-level salaries in the UK remain low at around £23,000.

But the report also notes that job hunters are placing “more importance on benefits offered beyond a base salary” in light of the cost-of-living increases such as holiday, healthcare and pension benefits.

Assistance in compiling the report was provided by law firm Sheridans, Mazzola Lindstrom, and tax and accounting firm Rawlinson & Hunter.

View the whole report here: SML Art Market Salary Report 2023

Salaries – In Numbers:

UK specialist auction house

Starting: £25,000-£32,000

Senior director: £130,000 upwards

UK commercial gallery

Starting: £23,000-£30,000

Senior director: £213,000-£250,000

UK art fairs

Starting: £24,000-£36,000

Fair director: £65,000 upwards