Sotheby's and Christie's are titans in the international art market—places where royal, famous and just-plain-wealthy collectors gather to vie for the world's most exquisite extravagances. Naturally, an internship at either institution is a feather in the cap.
But Yixue Ge '13 didn't stop there. A double major in art and economics, Ge secured internships at both iconic auction houses this year. Now, she's shuttling between Carlisle and the Big Apple to continue her work—all while preparing her senior-year exhibition.
"You never want to see my planner," she says with a laugh. "Every day is fully packed."
A native of China, Ge springs from an artistic family and has enjoyed art for as long as she can remember. At Dickinson she began to focus on Chinese art. Last summer's internship in Sotheby's Chinese paintings department was a perfect fit.
At Sotheby's, Ge learned about the workings of the international-art market, attended in-house lectures and field trips to museums and kept abreast of finance news. "It was an exciting place to be," she says, noting that since its founding in 1744, Sotheby's has sold innumerable intriguing pieces, including the Magna Carta, dinosaur skeletons, royal jewelry and works by Andy Warhol and Vincent Van Gogh.
She learned that she enjoyed working in that environment and began to wonder what it was like at other workplaces. So Ge applied for—and garnered—an internship at Christie's.
Up close and bare-handed
Founded in the mid-1700s and patronized by Catherine the Great, Christie's made headlines last year for its $43.7-million sale of a 1962 Warhol silkscreen. As at Sotheby's, Christie's interns not only gain free access to art museums and institutes, but also hands-on experience in the international market.
Working in Christie's Chinese-paintings department during the winter break, Ge learned that while auctions could be long and boring, there were spurts of drama and intrigue. "It's interesting to see how people react to the bids—some scream and shout; others just barely raise a hand."
She says her economics background came in handy, since she needed to keep current with art-market news. She also enjoyed researching and writing catalog notes for ancient and modern ceramics and paintings. "These pieces will be sold at an auction for millions," she says. "I can work closely with these properties—and sit with them all day, if I want to. I can touch them with my bare hands!"
A happy convergence
So imagine Ge's delight when she was invited to extend the Christie's internship into spring, her final semester before graduation. Working with her professors, Ge attends classes in Carlisle on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and travels to New York for her internship one—sometimes two—days a week. She earns independent-study credits while gaining resumé points on the job.
All the while, Ge continues to produce stunning artwork, as she prepares for her senior exhibition. Using the palettes of Madison Avenue, she infuses fashion iconography into elegant portrayals of cranes and flowers—the motifs found in traditional Chinese paintings, such as those she encounters in the Christie's archives.
"The artwork brings my interests—art and business—together," she explains. "It puts the idea of consumerism and materialism into a traditional context and shows how consumerism and materials interact with traditional art today." (Get a sneak-peek of the senior show.)
Ge also finds that happy convergence in her work at Christie's, so her busy spring semester is more than worth it. "I love what I'm doing now," she says. "I don't like to rest."