Olivia ’13 reports on her 2015 summer internship experience.
My internship at Christie’s was an invaluable experience to me, though perhaps not in the exact way I expected to be. As the daughter of an antiques dealer, I have grown up with auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s often floating around dinner table conversation, and I have over the years romanticized working at such large and successful art-related companies. Jobs at auction houses are famously perceived as glamorous, as every art-interested woman’s dream.
I worked in what most people currently think of as the “best” specialized department at Christie’s – Post-War and Contemporary Art. This department, the biggest of the company, had just had a major sale in which it had sold a work of art for the biggest price ever in the art world; it was an exciting time to be there. Of course, the department was already in the midst of putting together several of their next upcoming sales by the time I entered the scene. As an intern, in the midst of mailing catalogues and running errands for various members of the department (which felt, despite its toils, like a critical “intern” rite of passage in my life), I got to do some pretty cool things. I helped appraise several large art collections owned by Christie’s clients, I got to attend numerous auctions, I did important research on some of the contemporary artists we were dealing with, and I even got published – a blurb I wrote about two of the lots in the upcoming sale – in one of the catalogues. I learned a lot about the business side of the art world and how it all comes together backstage.
I thoroughly enjoyed my six weeks at Christie’s, but perhaps more important than the fun I had there was the realization that Christie’s, though glamorous and intellectual in certain respects, is in truth a large corporation just like any other. Each person who works there, especially in the administrative and lower-level specialist roles, is part of a larger system, and has a set series of goals to accomplish each day. Though Christie’s is a firm centered around art, there is in fact very little art in what most people working there do every day. I realized, in working there, that auction house life is perhaps not the life for me. It seems to boil art down to a price tag – that is, after all, the end goal of an auction – and that did not sit well with me, as a lover of art for what goes into creating it. I don’t think I could imagine myself sitting in an office all day if I am working toward something I don’t fully stand behind, and for that reason I probably will not apply to work in an auction house. Despite this realization, I don’t regret any of my time at Christie’s. I learned a lot about a field I have always been interested in, I learned about what I need to be looking for in a job for next year, and I met a lot of people I will almost certainly reach out to in the coming months for career and job-searching advice. It was most definitely a well-spent six weeks.