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Q&A with Nicole Sales ‘12, Associate Vice President, Business Manager, Christie’s

Published By Duke Arts / published on: April 11, 2021

In this interview, Nicole Sales ‘12 shares Duke resources that helped her land her first job post-graduation at the auction house Christie’s. On April 13, she will be in conversation with artist Carrie Able ’04 about their careers at the convergence of art and tech, including the explosion of NFTs.

Major: Art History / Minor: Economics

What are 2-3 ways your Duke experience helped prepare you for your current career role and/or previous roles?

I was surrounded by impressive students and faculty who motivated me to pursue my creative passions early in my career. This drive kept me focused, particularly in the early years post-graduation, where those in more traditional industries experienced cyclical promotions and (frankly) higher salaries. A passion for what you do is crucial and will ignite a fervor in other aspects of your life.

How did you make the transition from Duke to your career? What are a few helpful takeaways from your first years out of Duke?

Working at the Durham Art Guild was extremely impactful. Taj Forer, the director at the time, was a fantastic mentor. I also worked with the Art Therapy Institute through Duke Community Consulting and was the curatorial intern at The Nasher Museum of Art. I interned at NYC arts organizations, one during a Duke in New York summer semester. Post-grad, I focused on quickly learning a lot about the industry from alums.

How did you decide what you wanted to do after Duke? And how did you make transition(s) to different fields?

I always knew I wanted to work in the fine arts. I also loved market trends, economics, math, and business so I knew I wanted do something that activated my left brain as well. I networked with all alumni I could find at the major auction houses, galleries, and art advisory firms in New York. I finally got an informational interview at Christie’s and the rest is history (I’m still there!).

What is your favorite thing about working in your profession? Most challenging?

I have front row access to remarkable art. Plus, I get to manage dynamic and fast-paced deals, which are intellectually stimulating and rewarding. However, creative industries mean a lot of big personalities and egos—which can be quite challenging—but the plus side is that everyone is very passionate about what they do.

What are 2-3 pieces of advice you would offer to a student interested in your field(s)?

Talk to as many people as possible and keep an open mind. There are a variety of jobs, particularly at the entry level, you can explore at an auction house and in the industry more generally (marketing, client services, operations, finance—to name a few). The art world is small when compared to more traditional fields, so opportunities are naturally limited, but they do exist. Hit up Duke alums!