For this week’s Frank Talk, we wanted to highlight an individual that embodies loyalty, patience and endurance to talk Frank with. Jessica Arisohn is all that. She started at Gagosian Gallery as a receptionist. She was then promoted to Assistant to Director, which she did for three and a half years. She then used the skills she learned to establish herself as Exhibitions Manager and Director of Special Projects at Gagosian and worked diligently in that position for three more years. In 2015, she co-founded Arisohn + Murphy, along with one of her colleagues from the gallery. Drawing upon 16 years of combined experience at Gagosian overseeing exhibitions, art fairs, public art installations, and expansion projects, Jessica and Rysia Murphy offer their unique expertise to organizations inside and outside the art world. Jessica personifies our mission to democratize the art world and make it more transparent and that’s why we talked Frank with her this week.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Working in the art world is a very special and unique industry – it is one of the only industries that can be a for-profit commercial endeavor that is also a public service, adding to the community in a creative way. Especially when beginning, it is important to know that unlike other industries payment is not transparent between employers and is often not very high to begin. But, if you prove yourself and follow the tips below, you will stand out from the crowd and eventually rise further and further up the totem pole.
What is something you encounter often with employees that tests your patience?
Not following up or pursuing an issue until it is resolved. Being inactive until someone asks what is happening is a big red flag to me.
What has an employee done that happily surprised you?
Whenever someone can foresee a few steps ahead with an issue or show initiative to try and get in front of something, that is always a great surprise and help.
What makes a person hirable?
A go-getter attitude is the most important thing, no task too small.
What is the most frowned upon trait for an employee?
Someone who is more interested in the glamorous side of the art world (parties, openings, drinks, etc.) rather than doing the work. Everyone needs to pay their dues. Once you do the work, you will be invited and attending more than enough parties, so when you are younger, spend time learning and proving yourself, and the glam part will come.
What are things a person can do to make them stand out in the workplace?
Again, the concept of “no task too small” goes a long way. I have done everything from sweep the floors to hosting investor dinners with the top art collectors in the world in the name of an end goal. Ego is so important to check at the door – people will respect you for your work above all else and team player attitude.
What are things you can do proactively to boost your CV?
I still abide by the one page resume rule – highlight the important things and leave out the stuff that does not relate. (i.e. hostess at a restaurant to pay while you were an intern at a gallery for free)
What does professional mean to you?
Professional means listening, learning from people senior from you, asking questions to show your curiosity on WHY we approach an issue in a certain way, and overall keeping a curious and positive attitude.
Are there any tips you can give people entering the workforce?
I would say in general this concept of paying your dues is super important. When I started as a receptionist at a major art gallery, I did everything from answer phones to send fed exes, to serve coffee. I definitely wondered, why get a degree in art history for this? However, once I mastered those menial tasks, I asked for more: “What else can I do?” – then more was given to me. I was then helping publications department copy edit art books, I was helping directors when their assistants were out of the office. From there I was promoted time and time again, though in each role I learned and conquered my tasks, and then asked for me. Once I mastered whatever was provided to me, I always went into my boss’s office and asked “I need a new challenge, what else can I do, where else can I help” – this attitude shows you want to give to your colleagues around you and will eventually lead to more responsibility, more respect, which will lead to promotions and raises. My best advice is always keep looking for those challenges where you can learn and they will lead to career development naturally. Ten years ago, I was that receptionist, now I own my own business in the art world!
Are there any tips you can give for increasing your online presence? Whether with your LinkedIn, Art Frankly or other accounts?
Not so much my expertise, I am more old school but definitely keep a clean and presentable online presence on LinkedIn, Art Frankly, and then any social media accounts keep private so potential employers cannot rifle through those pictures from the frat parties in college 🙂 We all have them.