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

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!

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