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Contemporary Artist

Contemporary Artist

Contemporary artists work in many forms including painting, sculpture, installation, sound, film, photography, print, performance and socially engaged practice. They can earn a living from their work by selling it to collectors/ buyers either directly or through a third party such as a gallery, dealer or art fair. They might also be commissioned to produce a piece of work for a specific exhibition, buyer or site. In England artists can apply for grants from the Arts Council England to support their developing practice. Artists may also undertake funded residencies where they work within a particular site such as a school and are often given a space, fees and material allowance to realise a piece of work. It is typical for an artist to hold down one or more other jobs at the same time in order to earn a living and support their practice. Such jobs might include running workshops, working for a gallery or other arts organisation, or teaching.

How do you become a contemporary artist?

  • Study art at school or college.

  • Get involved with any after school art clubs. Many art museums and galleries also run dedicated sessions for young people.

  • Build a portfolio that shows off the work you have made. Self-initiated work is important to include i.e. work that you have created yourself without having been set a brief.

  • Visit art galleries such as the Tate and read contemporary art magazines/ websites such as Art Monthly, a-n or Frieze to familiarise yourself with the types of work being made by artists today.

  • Watch documentaries and read books about artists.

  • Study for a degree in fine art or a related subject such as painting, drawing, sculpture or fine art photography.

  • Get experience working in an art gallery or arts organisation to help build your network and gain insight into how the industry works.

  • Put on your own exhibitions and participate in group exhibitions.

Where next? 

Look up other roles in the visual arts including:

Contemporary Artist Assistant

Art Technician (University)