New York City has long been a magnet for both recent college graduates and career changers interested in working alongside visual artists in roles that include museum curatorship, gallery direction, and development. But as in so many fields, individuals looking for entry into this already competitive arena now face unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, arts professional Suzanne Julig RC’83 remains optimistic. “The visual arts aren’t going anywhere,” says Julig. “We’re seeing things come back.”
As an art adviser, career consultant, and former gallery director, Julig has been following the trends closely. While some galleries have shut their doors permanently and many museums are not fully reopened, businesses like auction houses are now staffing up after pandemic-related layoffs, and nonprofit institutions are figuring out how to make art safely accessible to the public again.
Financial losses affecting arts institutions may actually result in increased job opportunities. For example, Julig anticipates that people with skills in grant writing and fundraising will be particularly in demand in the nonprofit sector. “The pandemic showed us that business can be done and programs can be conducted virtually, making technology, online communications, and communication strategy other important areas for both profit and nonprofit organizations,” she adds.
Julig’s insider knowledge of the field can be traced back to her time as a Rutgers undergraduate. She had always been interested in art and museums, but it wasn’t until she took her first art history elective that she considered a career in the field. Professor Martin Eidelberg (now emeritus), an expert on Tiffany glass, became her adviser at Rutgers, and Julig, while still a student, volunteered at the Zimmerli Art Museum (then the Rutgers University Art Gallery). “It was an exceptional experience,” she says, “learning how exhibitions are put together, how artwork is handled, and about exhibition openings.”
Subsequent jobs with the IBM Gallery of Science and Art in Manhattan set the stage for positions at prominent commercial art galleries. She eventually became the director of a gallery specializing in American art from 1900 to 1950. Julig also earned a master’s degree in art history at Hunter College and taught courses at New York University on art appraisal with an emphasis on 19th- and 20th-century American art.
In 2008, Julig ventured out on her own as an art adviser working with collectors. “I wanted to help people who might just be starting out in building a collection, as well as sophisticated collectors who don’t have time to do all of the due diligence,” she says.
Early in the pandemic, Julig found time to consider her next endeavor and realized that helping other professionals enter the art world was a natural fit. Drawing on all of her experience, including recent roles with the summer study program at Sotheby’s Institute of Art and Christie’s Education, she launched the career consultancy facet of her business, Suzanne Julig Art Advisory. Her offerings range from how to present one’s self during virtual interviews to making the shift to the art world from another profession.
Given the current climate, with competition in the art world more intense than ever, Julig emphasizes the need for job seekers to have a clear sense of their skills—including those that are transferrable from other fields—and to have a positive outlook even if a good interview doesn’t result in an offer. “It’s okay to be disappointed,” she says. “But then it’s important to shake it off and ask yourself, ‘What can I learn from that experience?’”
Julig also encourages applicants to get creative. For example, find new ways to network with people associated with your field of interest. “If you come across an article or see something funny that they might enjoy, reach out,” she suggests. “All it takes is one connection to make it worthwhile. At the very least, you brighten someone else’s day—and your own.”