This summer was my first of many as a graduate of English Literature and History of Art. After finishing my degree and having sent out many emails, CVs and cover letters, I was lucky enough to secure a two week internship in the Books and Manuscripts department at Christie’s auction house. Although a little daunted, I arrived, along with many other students and graduates, at the King Street house early on a Monday morning and was given a tour of the building before heading to my department. The Books and Manuscripts section is fairly small, comprising two heads of departments, five specialists and two administrators. This was a very important factor during my time at Christie’s, since the small size of the department made for a friendly atmosphere and meant that I was able to experience a range of job roles and was given plenty of varied tasks to do.
Working closely with the administrators, I helped organise the stock lists and client papers in the busy run-up to auctions. This is a vital part of working in an auction house in order to maintain a smooth and easy relationship between auction house and client, and ultimately maintain the prestigious reputation that Christie’s has in the auction world on an international scale. I was also given the responsibility of editing the new catalogues that were being released for the October and November sales. Making use of all the skills I had acquired at university, I really enjoyed proof reading the material and making various corrections for the editor before the copy was sent out to press.
I was also given the great opportunity to work alongside the specialists, helping to check the condition of prospective lots for sale. This allowed me to get hands-on with wonderful items including books of hours, maps and bibles. This was an invaluable experience that allowed me to put my art history skills to the test, conducting my own researches about specific items, to chart their auction histories, their provenance etc., so that the specialist could correctly value the lot.
Working behind the scenes for such a demanding industry, I learnt invaluable skills and enhanced my interest in the workings of the art market. I would highly recommend anyone who has an interest in the running of an auction house to apply to Christie’s; my experience was thoroughly enjoyable and will never be forgotten.