An art buyer doesn't buy fine art. More typically, art buyer is a job title you find in advertising agencies. Interestingly, an art buyer doesn't need an artistic background, although a good eye and an understanding of the art director's vision help you to get ahead. Strong administrative and negotiating skills are key part of the job. This is a job you can enter at graduate assistant level and work your way up.
An art buyer sources photographers and illustrators for print advertising campaigns. An agency expects an art buyer to build up files on photographers and illustrators and keep examples of their work on file. The buyer is responsible for keeping these files updated and maintaining relationships with the artists and photographers. The buyer also makes time to look at the many portfolios submitted to the agency in the hope that they might bring work. She may also have to track down an artist that the creative department wants to use for a campaign. Apart from illustration and photography, the art buyer may have to develop an index of model makers and stylists. A solid knowledge of copyright laws and an ability to negotiate rights to use with artists is also essential.
Advertising agencies are a fun, but also tough, environment to work in. An art buyer needs to be comfortable working with a variety of colourful personalities. The buyer needs to build a good rapport with the traffic and production department because without them no project meets a deadline. The buyer needs to have the confidence to make sure the creative team provide a comprehensive brief rather than a few lines scribbled on a beer mat. An art buyer also has the responsibility of negotiating terms with all the relevant suppliers, such as retouchers, and developing good relationships with them as she may need to call in favours on a rush job. Good liaison skills, tact and good time organisation also make a good art buyer.
Production costs in advertising are usually steep, and there is always the potential for a project to go over-budget unless an art buyer keeps a strict eye on it. The art buyer has to prepare estimates for a job. To do this, the buyer has to discuss the brief with the photographer and estimate the time it will take to shoot it. Other costs, such as styling and models, have to be factored in, including the usage fees based on predicted media usage of the campaign. The art buyer is responsible for meeting the final budget.
An art buyer may get to meet famous photographers and maybe the odd celebrity, but the backbone of job is organisation and a meticulous approach to dealing with paperwork and filing systems. The art buyer has to issue purchase orders, keep all signed copyright and usage agreements and ensure model release forms are signed and filed at the agency. Failure to keep paperwork in correct order could cost an advertising agency thousands of pounds.
An art buyer is not expected to have an art degree. The Institute of Practitioners in the UK, and UK job specifications, suggest that an undergraduate degree in any subject and an aptitude for understanding business are sufficient to get into this field.