A Day in the Life: Meera Kumar ’16 Day in the Life, Johnson Opportunity Grant Winner, Intern at Christie's Global Headquarters, London
“The most exciting part of interning at Christie’s was getting to interact with pieces that I had studied in the classroom.”
“Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise, as well as international glamour.”
So reads the introduction to the Christie’s website Who We Are section. It also best describes my time interning in London in the Islamic Art and Contemporary Indian Art Departments at Christie’s King Street.
As an economics major with a strong interest in art history, I have long tried to connect my interests—though the links seem few and far between. At Christie’s however, for the first time, these seemingly disparate interests went hand-in-hand, as art specialists need to understand valuations and the art market in order to make reasonable estimates for items up for auction.
I was fortunate in that I got to experience two different departments: Islamic Art is rooted in provenance, researching the history of an object and determining its intrinsic value, while Contemporary Indian Art is not about historical worth, but about market trends and the whims of buyers.
Between attending auctions where pieces regularly sell for over £1 million pounds and helping create timelines for upcoming department sales, I had the opportunity to understand how an art auction house runs. From the moment that the contract is signed with the consigner to the time that an auction is held, the entire department involved works tirelessly to generate interest through collection viewings, well-designed catalogues, and pre-sale exhibitions all around the globe. My specific tasks were varied, depending on the daily needs of the department. A typical day might include re-organizing a bookcase in the Islamic and Indian library, finding the provenance of an item down in archives (Christie’s has records going back to the 1760s), researching traditional picchvai painting in Rajasthan, India, and finally handling some pieces in the warehouses.
Having spent the year studying at the University of Oxford and taking tutorials at the Ashmolean Museum, I thought that my exposure to object-handling had been quite thorough. At Christie’s, however, my experience was simply at a different level. I got to peruse illustrated Ottoman texts such as the Dala’il al-Khayrat and touch ancient Gandharan sculptures as I helped catalogue items in the warehouses.
The most exciting part of interning at Christie’s was getting to interact with pieces that I had studied in the classroom. During my last few months at Oxford, I had been involved in giving gallery talks about Bengali Art in the age of Nationalism at the Ashmolean Museum. From Nandalal Bose to Jamini Roy, many of the artists I had researched for my project have pieces that are regularly exhibited and auctioned at Christie’s. It’s an environment saturated with artworks and with expertise—an environment I am grateful to have been part of for a few weeks of my summer.
Hometown: Chandler, AZ
Minors: Mathematics and Art History
- Cantatrici Choir
- SAIL (Student Association for International Learning)
- Engineers without Borders
- Math Center Tutor
- Grader for Math Department
- Study abroad at St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford (2014-2015)
- Internship at the Zorig Foundation, Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia, funded through the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Grant (Spring 2015)
- Internship at Laboratoires Protec in Paris, France (Summer 2014)
- Summer Research Scholar, Economics department (Summer 2014)
- Water Filtration Project Crew with Engineers without Borders in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala (Spring 2014)
- Internship at Congressman David Schweikert’s District Office (Summer 2013)
- Internship at Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt in Cologne, Germany (Summer 2013)
Favorite Lexington Landmark: The volleyball courts that are set up behind Wilson Field during spring term—I’ve spent countless lovely evenings playing there with friends.
What professor has inspired you? Professor Humke’s absolute passion for mathematics and commitment to his students is inspiring. Professor Goldsmith’s economics of social issues changed the way that I see the world and doing research alongside him last summer was a wonderful experience. And Professor Kerin’s courses and mentorship helped me find a passion for art history and pursue it as a minor.
Advice for prospective or first-year students? Go abroad! Whether it be for a short service project, or for a semester, it truly makes all the difference in how you see the world and how you see yourself.