Interview with Laura Harris, Recruitment Officer at Christie’s Education

Having sat in Comptoir Cuisine with a beautiful view over Opera of Bordeaux, Laura and I enjoyed wonderful French cuisine with a glass of good white (Bordeaux obviously) and talked art, lifestyle and life in general. I first met Laura at Christie’s New York, where I attended a lecture about Christie’s Education. Laura recruits postgraduate students for Christie’s art education division and is also my first guest at La Bohème. In this interview she tells us about her exciting job and travels, traditional and emerging art markets, and what it takes to be a good professional in the art business.

– Laura can you please tell me a bit about yourself?

Yes, sure. I studied Fine Art originally and then I completed an MSc in Management with Creative Industries at the University of London in 2013. I work for major auction house Christie’s and I actually specifically work for Christie’s Education in London. My job involves traveling extensively around the world. I meet students and art professionals, run events and raise awareness as to master’s programmes in London, New York and Hong Kong.

– That sounds great! What is the most exciting part of your job? 

It is a very interesting question! It has to be the people that I meet. I meet a lot of international people who I engage with but also on a personal level I am very interested in seeing new art. We were just talking about emerging artists and also mid-level to top-level career artists and the art they are making. So the connections that I make and the networks that I make are absolutely essential to the job that I do. I mean, for example, how we met today and are having this conversation this evening. It was totally spontaneous. It is really exciting part of the job, to engage with new people, talk about new concepts on an intellectual level and then also develop those ideas. I also devise new events in new countries, for example, in May I am going to Lisbon for the first time, having connected with Christie’s representatives there. It is really exciting working with the networks that Christie’s have and also my personal connections over the last few years. In general, engaging with fine art and visual culture. 

-You meet a lot of people various countries and observing all the trends in these countries, which art market of which country is the most advanced? 

Hm, you do have very sophisticated art markets in London, New York and Hong Kong. I think those are the predominant ones. Hong Kong is at the top of finance world and I think there is still untapped potential there and in China more widely. It would be interesting to see what happens there in the future. Maybe people there do not think about buying art yet, but they have the money. 

– What do you personally think of currents art trends? 

Oh, that is a very big question. Personally I think that money has for quite some time been moving East. So personally, I am very interested in emerging art markets and also transitional economies and the art markets that surround those economies so, for example, recently I visited Hong Kong. I am very interested in Asian art and artists from those regions so that is of personal interest to me. There is a very well-established art market in the West: predominantly in the North America and in the UK and certain locations in Europe, for example, Paris, Berlin and so on. So it is about moving towards the future and continuing to develop with ties between East and West. Hopefully the art market will encourage to forge ties between East and West in these times of political turmoil, and encourage trade and the art markets to flourish between the two regions.

– Are there still many opportunities for students studying art market? 

Yes, absolutely. The Creative Industries is one of the fastest growing economies in the UK and I do think is has longevity. During times of conservatism and retraction in terms of an economic landscape, artists can be actually produce some particularly interesting work. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the next few years, especially in art market centres like New York, London and Hong Kong. It could be a very exciting and positive time for the production of art. Hopefully we will see a reflection in terms of the work that artists are producing and there are some very important art platforms. Obviously the biennales, the art fairs and also in the non-for-profit sector have some very interesting projects that will really expose new artists to new collectors, art professionals and academics as well. 

-What qualities do you need to have to get into a Christie’s educational programme and to become a good professional after?

Sure. So two different questions. One concerning potential students – I think that passion is important. Someone who wants to work in the art market or work in the sphere of art, whether it is art history orientated or art investment, really needs to have passion for the subject, as well as academic credentials. 

What skills might students need to move into the art market?

To be honest, I think it is down to the individual. So, having a very strong CV, and having some kind of work experience is also important, so we actually have a work experience component built into all of our master’s programmes at Christie’s. Even if the student is not studying at Christie’s, I think it is important just to be aware of what is happening in the art market, to attend as many art fairs and museum exhibitions as possible. It does not have to be on a national level, it could be visiting the local museums or local art festivals. Equally, it does not have to be a fine arts experience, it might be, as we mentioned earlier, festivals and just engaging with arts. For example, a local circus or engaging with dance so just getting out there, seeing performers and making an effort to go to those performances or art fairs, especially for younger students.

-And the last question is… I have heard a lot about making career in art world and that it is very difficult to start the career without good connections. Is it true? 

Well, ha-ha. That is very interesting question. It is not impossible. A good start is to take an arts degree. It certainly opens doors and has led directly to my own art world career, as I don’t have family art connections. 

Connections don’t have to start only from being in a large city. I moved to London as an adult and I think it is really important for young adults to go to local exhibitions, connect with artists, and visit studios. And then the networks will develop later on in life, depending which circles you move in. You never quite know where the life will take you but take the time to make and grow your social network, meet these people, and say “yes, I will have a lunch or coffee with you”. It’s important, especially in the age of digital media, scrolling on Instagram, Facebook etc. Confidence and networks have to be learned and created, it can take many years. It’s important to take the time to actually meet people face-to-face and have real life conversations. That is how you learn and develop networks with important art world players. It might seem old-fashioned but it works. 

© Zhamila Tampayeva

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