In this week’s Frank Talk we sit down with Michael Short. Since 1986 Michael Short has worked with artists, collectors, galleries and museums to realize acquisitions, exhibitions, publications and sales of modern and contemporary art. He lives in Berlin, Germany but is frequently on the road, whether visiting art fairs like Art Basel in Switzerland or curating exhibitions like his most recent Evan Penny survey in Venice, Italy. Michael has a lot of experience working in the arts industry and we are excited that he shared his advice with us.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Working in the art world is never about you; it is about paying attention to what is needed to support (in this order); the art, the artist, the gallery or institution supporting the art and artist, the collectors or benefactors/trustees of the aforementioned institutions. Then having the competence and ability to discharge your duties to provide that support. You make the impossible possible while suffering cheerfully.
What is something you encounter often with employees that tests your patience?
Employees who do not pay attention; who do not see the big picture and their limited contribution to that big picture. Those that think they are the big picture. Also, the lack of attention to detail to their work and to the nuances of established social conventions.
What has an employee done that happily surprised you?
When they got out of their own way and tuned into the group dynamic and performed a miracle. Which surprised them as well.
What makes a person hirable?
Their curiosity, willingness, passion, commitment, capability and endurance to do the job. People who would do the job for free. Someone who would say, “I don’t want an easy life, I want a better quality of problem.”
What is the most frowned upon trait for an employee?
Everyone grew up within a family dynamic – leave that at home.
Confusing their personal agenda with the work agenda.
Mistaking their necessity to have the job with the necessities of the job.
What are things a person can do to make them stand out in the workplace?
Making the impossible possible without making their presence known; believe me, you will stand out and your efforts will be noticed. The reward for hard work is more work.
What are things you can do proactively to boost your CV?
Be in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. The necessity of the place and the time will determine what is the ‘right’ thing to do. And the right person will take note of this.
What does professional mean to you?
Bring your best, do your best and hope for the best. On time. Reliably. Responsibly. With style and a sense of humor.
Are there any tips you can give people entering the workforce?
As my grandmother used to say, “A civilized, useful, person is someone who, in a social (or in this case, work) setting, knows how to play the accordion, but doesn’t”
Also, I recommend reading Managing Oneself, by Peter F. Drucker
Are there any tips you can give for increasing your online presence? Whether with your LinkedIn, Art Frankly or other accounts?
Don’t invest so much in your online presence. Show up. Increase your skills using your face-to-face presence with people, preferably in the same physical space with each other.