A Professional Portrait by Anna Povejsilova

Junior Specialist

Christie's Auction House

Published: 31st July 2017

What inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?

What initially inspired me to pursue a career in this sector was simply a great passion for art. When I was deciding what to study at university, I chose Italian & History of Art with my heart rather than my mind. I hoped that if I studied what I loved and enjoyed, I would eventually be rewarded when looking for a job. To a large extent, it was a step into the unknown, but I am still convinced it was the right decision at the time.

Can you tell us a little about your role?

As a Junior Specialist at Christie’s, I am in charge of the research, cataloguing and presentation of the Impressionist & Modern artworks consigned to our evening sales. In practice, this involves putting together the whole history of each work – who has owned it and when, where it’s been exhibited, in which books it’s been published. In many cases, it takes a lot of research and sometimes even detective work to pull together the various parts of each work’s story. In addition to this, I also look after the pieces from a more physical perspective, when they need cleaning, restoration, mounting or reframing. It is this combination of the theoretical and the practical that I have always enjoyed.

What does your average day entail?

The auction environment is quite seasonal, so my average day varies a lot depending on whether we are in the lead-up to an auction or not. At the busiest times, it involves a lot of juggling – cataloguing works that have been consigned, checking them when they arrive at Christie’s, liaising with framers and restorers, getting all the necessary research together, proofing and editing catalogue notes, working on the catalogue design and the pre-sale exhibition. In short, I follow the works on their journey through Christie’s, from the initial valuation request through the catalogue pages they are presented on to the pre-sale exhibition and subsequent sale.

How did you get your job?

I was just finishing an internship at Tate Modern when I completed my Masters and started looking for the next step. This was in 2011 when jobs in the art world were still quite scarce in the wake of the economic crisis of 2008. During this period, I applied for many different positions, and eventually went to work at the Jewish Museum in Berlin as part of the Leonardo Programme. When I was there, I was invited for an interview at Christie’s, having applied for an internship a few months earlier. I received an offer for the graduate internship programme in the Impressionist & Modern Art department and have been there ever since, moving on to a role in Private Sales after my internship, and subsequently to the Evening and Art of the Surreal sales that I work on now.

What is the best part of your job?

The most exciting part of my job is getting to know each work so intimately – its full history, its condition, being able to handle it. Having this sort of relationship with artworks never gets old!

What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is finding the balance between researching each work thoroughly, but at the same time not dwelling on it so long that others would then suffer. The beauty of cataloguing is that you can always find more information to paint a more complete picture, but the challenge is knowing when to stop because the auction is coming up and everything has to be researched sufficiently before it takes place. Sometimes I wish I could give a specific piece a lot more time and attention!

What has been the highlight of your career?

Talking to people who are passionate about art and sharing insights and views with them is a constant highlight. For me, this endless exchange and dialogue is what makes the art world so appealing.

What is your favourite Artwork?

One of my favourite paintings in the whole world is František Kupka’s Cosmic Spring I, 1913-1914. He was my fellow countryman and one the greatest pioneers of abstraction along with Kandinsky, Malevich and Mondrian. His works are still completely unique in my view, and standing before them is a near-spiritual experience.

Which artist would you have liked or would like to meet?

There are so many! If I had to choose one, however, I would probably have liked to meet Egon Schiele. His work looks so daring and modern even today, a century after it was created, and it must have been quite shocking during his time. I love artists who push boundaries and help us see the world from new perspectives, and Schiele has certainly broadened my horizons

What advice would you give to people trying to enter the art industry?

Perseverance is key. The art industry is not easy to get into, so it’s essential to keep trying and not be put off by the first rejection. Most importantly, talking to people from the industry is invaluable, so don’t be afraid to approach them! You will be surprised at how happy they are to share their insights and help – we have all been there and know it isn’t easy, and are keen to give tips to those interested in the art world.

If you weren’t in the art industry, what would you be doing?

I’d be a travel photographer, street art documenter, a restorer of antique design objects or, as I’ve always loved animals, a caretaker in an animal orphanage.