Lexi Tollefsen ’15, Christie’s

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The first day of my Princeternship at Christie’s Art Auction House  was extremely eye-opening, exciting and of course, busy. I woke up early on Wednesday, February 1, and boarded a 7:15 am train at Princeton Station and headed into New York City. I found it slightly nerve-wracking that I was playing the role of a commuter for the rest of the week: I was dressed in a suit, equipped with office essentials and carrying a large coffee. Once I got to the city, I was a part of the morning rush. I quickly found my way to the subway station that took me to Rockefeller Center where Christie’s was located. After entering the building, I checked in with security and headed upstairs to meet our alum George McNeely’83’s assistant, Alex. She was incredibly personable, which made me feel more comfortable in the office environment on my first day. Luckily, my first day of the internship was alongside Nick, another Princeton student who began his shadowing two days earlier than I. He was able to show me the ropes before I was expected to work alone.

After being introduced to members of the company that I would be working closely with, I dove straight into the major project I was assigned. Because Mr. McNeely was in charge of overseeing Christie’s involvement in the Latin American art market, he gave me the task of analyzing data pertaining to Latin American clientele. My job was to search for trends in the buying habits of each country in the region. These trends would assist the company moving forward. I enjoyed this task, because I felt like my findings would be important; they were a real contribution to the company and its world-wide endeavors.

I was anxious to see more of the company after the first couple of hours at the computer. Alex took us on a tour of the building and explained the company’s fundamental aspects. Nick and I toured the specialty departments- departments that are focused on art from a certain region of the world or even a specific country- as well as the major showroom. There was an auction currently going on and we stayed for a bit to watch how things worked. The auction itself was different than I expected. It was incredibly reserved, calm and cool. American Interiors were being sold for various prices to people who came from all over the city and, quite possibly, all over the world.

Next, it was lunch time. Alex took Nick and I to several places around the building in Rockefeller Center. There were business women and men scattered everywhere. Some were headed for a quick sandwich and salad, while others took more time to dine leisurely with a co-worker at a cafe. Upon returning to work, I continued my work on the project. Time passed incredibly quickly and before I knew it, it was time to return to Princeton.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 & Friday, February 3, 2012

My second and third days were tailored more to my personal interests in the company as well as the project. When I arrived at the office, I used Excel to graph client annual totals in an attempt to make sense of the Latin American client data. Shortly after, I had a one-on-one meeting with Mr. McNeely. We chatted about his background, art and Christie’s in general. I found it incredibly interesting to hear about his time at Princeton and the career path that followed. His perspective was helpful in sorting through my own thoughts about my future in the business world. Mr. McNeely was kind, open and accepting of my ideas. His pleasant disposition made me feel welcome in the Christie’s community. I was not just an outsider looking in. My presence was recognized and respected.

George McNeely, fellow Princetern Nick, and Lexi

The last two days at Christie’s flew by. Before I knew it, it was lunch time. Alex and I went underground to grab a sandwich. Over lunch, Alex and I discussed her background in college and I discovered that she was new to the business world too. Just out of college, Alex took the job at Christie’s to increase her involvement in the art world. I enjoyed hearing her story.

I was able to sit in on an Events Committee Meeting later in the afternoon. This was definitely one of my favorite parts of my time at Christie’s. As someone interested in event planning and coordination, listening to Mr. McNeely’s co-workers discuss various invitations they received that requested a Christie’s representative was very intriguing. The meeting made me aware of how large businesses treat major events as an advertising opportunity- something that will promote the company’s name and reputation. I found it fascinating to be a fly on the wall. As I listened, I was also able to pick up how members of Christie’s discuss and propose events. The presentation of each event was very important, for the employee pitching the event had to be persuasive and give good reasons as to why Christie’s should participate.

As the days came to a close, I worked furiously on the project. I made lists, graphs and charts that I thought might be helpful to Alex and Mr. McNeely in their quest to expand and strengthen the Latin American art market. Before the end of the day, I met with Mr. McNeely to show him my work. To my surprise, he was very pleased with what I had done and planned to use my findings in future meetings. I was beyond flattered and proud that I had made a contribution. Although small, my contribution was able to leave a tiny mark on the company and hopefully leave them with a pleasant view of Princeton University. Overall, my experience could not have been more fulfilling. Not only did I meet executives from one of the most prominent art auction houses in the world, I was able to get an inside look at a major company to see how it runs on a daily basis. I felt so lucky that I had the opportunity to represent Princeton in the big city!