Christie's reflects on an #EachforEqual world through women who led the way, changed opinions, created opportunity - and inspired others to carve a career in the art world
May 21, 2020
Celebrating International Women's Day, acclaimed auction house Christie's asked their specialists and experts to identify the women who led the way, changed opinions and created opportunity through their own example - and in doing so inspired them to carve their own careers in the art world.
Since 1766, Christie's has seen the greatest and most celebrated auctions. With a global presence in 46 countries, Christie's stewards uniquely beautiful pieces from artwork and jewellery to wine and collectibles, ensuring they pass safely down generations. At Christie's, women work in every department and at every level, representing around 68 per cent of the company’s staff worldwide and making up the majority of new hires and promotions.
Supporting the International Women's Day theme of #EachforEqual, hear about the women who inspired Christie's employees to move into the art world.
Liang-Lin Chen - Specialist Head of Sale, Chinese Works of Art, Hong Kong
"My mother introduced me to the world of art. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around going with her to museums and cultural performances. One of our favourite destinations was the National Palace Museum in Taipei, where she would point out highlights such as Travellers Among Mountains and Streams by Fan Kuan, and the Song-dynasty monochrome wares. My mother has an innate sense of aesthetics that has inspired me to discern and appreciate without the influence of others, and a grateful heart that has encouraged me to respond to challenges with a positive attitude"
Deepanjana Klein - International Head of Department, Classical, Modern and Contemporary Indian Art, New York
"Meera Mukherjee (1923-1998) has been an inspiration to me since my high-school days. She was a friend of the family, who took me under her wing and inspired me to go to art school. She was a brilliant sculptor, writer and musician, and I spent hours with her in her studio, watching her work on her massive bronze sculptures. She taught me what it took to be passionate about something and about following one’s dream, no matter how large or how difficult. She is with me every day as I navigate through this world, trying to share the love and passion she shared with me during my teenage years."
Rachel Koffsky - Head of Sale, Handbags & Accessories, London
"Elsa Schiaparelli has been an inspirational figure to me ever since I first learned of her influence on fashion. A modern woman in every sense, she led with her heart. Schiaparelli was poet, a comedian, and an artist who designed with wit and artistry. She opened her couture house in Paris as a single mother, and became entrenched in the Surrealist movement, collaborating on extravagant ensembles with artists such as Salvador Dalí. Schiaparelli was one of the first to combine fashion and art. An unapologetic provocateur, she continues to be an inspiration to designers today."
Eugenio Donadoni - Specialist, Books & Manuscripts, London
"Kay Sutton, my wonderful mentor, colleague and much-adored friend, passed away last September. A world-renowned manuscript scholar and art historian, she had a formidable depth and breadth of knowledge, which she always shared generously. She was an exceptional educator and lecturer, an incisive writer and editor, and a sccessful and ethical business woman. I wouldn’t be where I am today, travelling the world looking at beautiful manuscripts, without her."
Asia Chiao - Associate Specialist, Modern and Contemporary Art, Hong Kong
"My greatest role models are the women that I work for and with on a daily basis. At Christie’s Asia, five out of the six specialist departments with sales in the region are led by female Heads of Department, and I have colleagues who excel as senior specialists, regional leaders and managers, while also being amazing mothers, partners, and vibrant individuals. I feel privileged to be in a space where I am surrounded by strong, creative, and ambitious women, who not only inspire me every day, but also empower me to act and inspire others."
Jessica Fertig - Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
"I took my first art history course during my sophomore year at Kenyon College, simply to fulfil an art requirement. The moment that I walked into Professor Sarah Blick’s course on medieval art, my life and career path was changed for ever. The passion she brought to her teaching captivated me, and her inspired lectures helped me to realise that the study of art history brought together many of the topics that interested me at the time — politics, history, religion and, of course, art. Professor Blick set me on a path to a career that enables me to learn every day, view outstanding works of art, and meet collectors around the globe and learn about their own love of art."
Emily Sarokin - Director of Operations, New York
"The first art I ever fell in love with was Jacob Lawrence’s ‘The Migration Series’, so it wasn’t long before I was pulled into the orbit of Edith Halpert — the first gallerist in New York to represent a black artist. Halpert’s own story is one of underdog heroics. A Russian-born, self-made woman, she was responsible for creating the market for modern American art. She was feisty and bold in the pursuit of her passions, and throughout her career she surfaced artists and styles that would expand fine art as we know it today."
Arlene Blankers - Head of Sale Management, Decorative Arts, London
"My background is in philosophy and art history, and I have been inspired by many great minds which have formulated groundbreaking visions. I was immediately drawn to the Guerrilla Girls, and the ideas expressed in their famous ‘Pop Quiz’ poster from 1990. It poses the question: ‘If February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month, what happens the rest of the year?’ Many philosophical works are framed by beautiful but tangled spiders’ webs. The same can be said for art."
Robbie Gordy - International Features Editor, New York
"Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have women in my life who encouraged me to pursue my passions and interests wherever they took me. Among my earliest supporters was an elementary school teacher, Mrs. Frank, who saw that I enjoyed public speaking, reading aloud to the class, and learning about art history. She fostered my self-confidence and my ability to stand proudly in front of others —qualities that I use every time I pick up my gavel as a Christie’s auctioneer."
Marysol Nieves - Specialist, Latin American Art, New York
"Shortly after completing graduate school I had the privilege of working as a graduate fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with the legendary Lowery Sims, who was a curator in the 20th-century art department at the time. It was an exhilarating and inspiring experience on so many levels. I honed my skills as a researcher and curator under her guidance, but also learned from her generosity and commitment to mentoring young women like myself. As the first African American woman to hold a curatorial position at The Met, she was keenly aware of her unique position and responsibility. She taught me that when someone opens a door for you, you hold that door open for those that come after you. As a woman of colour working in the arts, I have tried to follow Lowery’s example and honour her incredible legacy."
Becky MacGuire - Senior Specialist, Chinese Export Art, New York
"Gillian Wilson was a long-time curator of decorative arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. She was a towering art-world figure when I joined the auction business in Los Angeles, straight out of the V&A programme. An erudite scholar with a keen eye, Gillian was fearlessly glamorous, sweeping into parties with her long, Botticelli curls and deep red lipstick, dispensing anecdotes and witticisms as she went. In an era of pantsuits and pussy bows, I just thought, “Wow”."
Inspired to pursue a career in art?
There are many opportunities to forge a career in the art world: from the creators themselves to the curators and auction house specialists who oversee art procurement, exhibition and sales; those who conserve, restore and archive artwork to ensure its longevity; and the support system of PR, Marketing, Finance that helps sustain auction houses, museums, galleries and exhibitions.
Women's leadership and participation need to be reflected across the entire art world.
In addition to the need for a constant stream of new female artists, these creators must have the opportunity to run solo exhibitions in major global cities and feature in well-known large-scale galleries. Women's work deserves equal merit to that of male counterparts, and women's creations need to be financially valued in auction houses at a price that isn't skewed by gender bias. Additionally, women must have an equal chance to be nominated for awards and competitions, while museum and galleries must constantly re-assess their exhibited artworks to ensure a fair reflection in the number of women artists past and present.
Greater representation of women artists can inspire further women to forge careers in the art world, not solely as creators but as decision makers in museums, galleries, auction houses and exhibitions. With women at the helm of influential public spaces, they can help change and improve the art world.