tag Sign Up for our Newsletter
Site Logo
Don't miss to receive the art world's most entertaining newsletter - every Thursday.
Sign up for the newsletter and receive updates, invitations and lots of inspiration.
Become a members
5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Working In An Auction House
It`s more than a hammer coming down on several million for Basquiat canvas
Art Stuff 03 Dec 2019

A room full of the most important dealers and collectors dressed in designer outfits, hammer coming down on several million for a large scale Basquiat, that’s the auction house scene every art girl/boy dream about. Having the name Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Phillips or Bonhams written in our Linkedin and CV makes art school graduates go crazy with their internship and job applications. Now, let’s say you’ve become one of the lucky ones (or should we say chosen ones?) and you got invited to an interview with the auction house of your dreams. Let’s even say that you’ve got through the first round of the bespoke screening process, and you are thinking you already have one foot in the door. After reading the job description and getting through the invasive filtering process, we think there is nothing that we don’t know or can’t do. Well, let me tell you from behind the scenes – some things that they won’t tell you about working at an auction house.
9-5 working hours?
The job description paper usually states working hours from 9 am to 5 pm, and you would think ‘of course ! This is no investment banking job; and thus, no crazy sleepless nights. Well, they don’t get sleepless, but they can get pretty long, especially when a deadline is approaching or the sale season is on and it’s one evening sale after another. But it doesn’t end there; even mornings can start pretty early. Not an early bird? Get ready for some serious coffee consumption.
Mean Girls vs. Sweet Girls.
Probably not a single teen girl on this planet hasn’t seen Mean Girls – you can’t sit with us! Well, in art companies like auction houses it goes more like ‘you can’t sit with us, you are not from the Contemporary Art department.’ Different department – different popularity and different people, that’s the rule. Let’s not point at which department is mean and which is meaner, let’s say that similarly like in school, people form their groups and mark their territories. But there will always be those sweet colleagues who stop by to say hi or thank you, and if you are lucky, maybe bring a box of chocolate.
Celebrity exposure
You might already assume or even know that the clientele of auction houses consists of many famous names who are buyers as well as consignors. But what you might not know is that there are real chances of actually bumping into well-known faces in the views, auctions or special events. If you are one of the lucky ones, you might end up working with them directly, if not, you might at least advise them where to find the nearest bathroom. Auction houses also collaborate with celebrities and fashion designers. Their special partnerships are always exciting to look out for.
Extracurricular benefits
It might not come as a huge surprise, but it’s very easily forgotten that once you start your new job in an auction house and you are swamped by work and company events that there is also an outside world full of art. And what’s more, auction houses provide complimentary exhibition tickets to their staff and sometimes even special private viewing hours. And if you are hungry or fancy a drink beforehand or after there are several cafes, delis and pubs in your auction house radius with a friendly employee discount.
Unofficial dress code
Are you used to jeans or the usual black smart attire that never hurt anyone? Well, there will be times where you might think you work in a fashion house instead of an auction house. Jeans are simply no go, sneakers only the latest model and styled with a cool skirt, otherwise, get ready to dig in your closet for a pair of heels and something fabulous for evening sales. For day sales, something a bit less fabulous and a lower heel will do. This season, for example, headbands are a thing for auction house girls. It looks like Blair Waldorf has a comeback. Xoxo

You May Also Like

Hot Sumer news
Hot Sumer news
How to make new friends at a Hermann Nitsch Festival
How to make new friends at a Hermann Nitsch Festival
How to Survive in the (Art) World Without Support
How to Survive in the (Art) World Without Support
"Art Historians On Screen" Highlight Art In Pop Culture
Ready for Frida Kahlo's Morning Routine?
Ready for Frida Kahlo's Morning Routine?
#Goodnews: What made you happy this week
#Goodnews: What made you happy this week
Sign up for the newsletter and receive updates, invitations and lots of inspiration.


Marketing, Website & Social Media (part-time)
Isabella Rudzki - Berlin / Remote
Coordinator of Civic Programs & Engagement
The Shed - New York, USA
Special Collec Archivist II
The Getty Research Institute (GRI) - Los Angeles, USA
Philanthropy Officer
The Barbican - London, UK