Interns at Work: Colton Klein ’15 Sotheby’s, New York, N.Y.
“I realized that a major auction house could incorporate both of my interests in an intellectually engaging and challenging environment.”
How did you learn about this internship?
Combining my background in business with a passion for the creation and study of art, I realized that a major auction house could incorporate both of my interests in an intellectually engaging and challenging environment. I became aware of the Sotheby’s internship program through my advisors and through the Sotheby’s website.
What gave you the edge in landing this internship?
I carefully tailored my cover letter, resume and application to highlight those skills and experiences that had the potential to translate to success within Sotheby’s. Prior to the first round of interviews in New York, I scheduled several constructive practice interviews with Career Development. In addition, I remained up-to-date on important auction results for the fall sales season and followed coverage of Sotheby’s current events in the Wall Street Journal. Throughout the application process, I continually asked myself the same question: “Why Sotheby’s?” Establishing a succinct, honest and impassioned response to this question became the cornerstone of my preparation.
Describe your daily duties.
On a daily basis, I interfaced with a broad array of clients, from high net worth watch collectors to local dealers. Developing a comprehensive knowledge of luxury watch-makers, such as Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Rolex, I worked collaboratively with Sotheby’s specialists to value watches for business-getting. In order to provide accurate auction estimates, a detailed analysis of authenticity, condition and provenance was required.
What was your favorite part or perk of the internship?
At Sotheby’s, I had the unique opportunity to closely study and handle extremely important objects and works of art. Within minutes of entering the Watches Department on my first day, I found myself holding Patek Philippe’s first ever split-seconds chronograph wristwatch, which took twenty years to make (1903-1923) and had just sold at auction for $2.95 million only an hour earlier. I also had the opportunity to personally examine Patek Philippe’s “Supercomplication,” the most expensive watch ever sold at auction ($11 million at Sotheby’s in 1999). Commissioned in 1925 by New York banker Henry Graves Jr., this pocket watch displays the night sky above Central Park and the time of sunrise and sunset in New York City each day. It is estimated to sell for $17 million at auction this November in Geneva. In addition, I witnessed the sale of the world’s most famous stamp, the British Guiana One-Cent Black on Magenta, which sold for $9.48 million (nearly 1 billion times its face value) and viewed Mark Rothko’s “Untitled (Yellow, Orange, Yellow, Light Orange)” from Bunny Mellon’s upcoming estate sale.
How did you like living in the city where the internship was located?
I commuted from my home in New Jersey with my father who also works in New York City. The two-hour commute began each day at 5:15 AM. Although we were usually too tired to talk in the morning, I am tremendously grateful that I had the opportunity to spend this time with him. I developed a new appreciation for his commitment to his career and to our family. While in New York, I often visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Frick Collection. Sotheby’s provides complimentary admission for employees to all major museums in the city. In addition, the internship program included many group excursions to these museums, a trip to the Brant Foundation in Connecticut, and a walking food tour of Greenwich Village.
What key takeaways/skills will you bring back to W&L?
Sotheby’s imparted a number of practical takeaways that directly relate to success at W&L, including the importance of attention to detail, confidence in public speaking and thorough research. I also brought back a greater appreciation for watches and have started my own collection. However, the most significant takeaway from my time at Sotheby’s was the encouragement to pursue any subject, from vintage watches to computer science, simply to satisfy my inner desire to know more.
What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?
It is never too early to start the process. I would encourage anyone interested to become familiar with the auction industry, to keep track of major upcoming sales and to begin establishing a network.
Will you pursue a career in this field after graduation?
Yes, I will pursue a career in this field.
Describe your experience in a single word.
Aesthetic—as in, “appreciative of, responsive to, or zealous about the beautiful.”