Every year, History of Art and Museums Studies students take on new and challenging opportunities at museums and institutions throughout the country - and sometimes beyond. These internships are often life-changing experiences, and we aim to support these students by offering scholarships for this very purpose.
Summer of 2019 saw our students traveling the globe to a variety of institutions; click below to read each student's account of how they spent their time.
Over this past summer (2019) I had the opportunity to intern at Sotheby’s in New York City thanks to the support of the History of Art Internship Scholarship. Upon my arrival to the Sotheby’s internship program, I was placed in the Proposals Department. As the only intern in this department, I had a hands-on experience in helping to produce proposals that are sent to our international clients. My department acts as a lynchpin between the business development team, specialist teams, and marketing department; this allowed for me to learn about many aspects of Sotheby’s business, and how the departments collaborate to win big consignments. While I was an intern, we won numerous big sales for the upcoming fall and spring seasons. My tasks included proof-reading; researching artists, clients, and auction records; and streamlining resources, such as images, case studies, quotes, and more. I assisted in the overall writing, designing, and production of the proposals. The work was incredibly detail-oriented and taught me a lot about business-getting strategy and client relations.
My favorite part of the summer was our internship programming. Every Tuesday we had a speaker series with the Vice Presidents of many different departments. My favorite speaker series was with the Worldwide Head of Restitution who talked to us about both the legal and press concerns of looted art, as well as the ethical concerns. We also learned about client development, the auction process, the art of service, and future career opportunities. On Fridays, we had offsite visits to other businesses and cultural institutions. We visited museums such as the Judd Foundation, The Frick, and The Whitney, where we attended private curator-led tours. My favorite visits were to Paddle8, LaPlaca Cohen, and Kickstarter. These visits were a chance to talk to visual arts professionals and learn about other professional opportunities within a similar field. On top of the intern programming, working at Sotheby’s granted me access to interesting events and exhibitions. As a lover of feminist art, I was ecstatic to attend a lecture with one of the founding members of the Guerrilla Girls. It was also amazing to be able to pop-down to our gallery spaces and view works from our contemporary online sales, the Chatsworth exhibition, high-fashion sneakers, and an installation of ArtForum covers.
Overall, interning with Sotheby’s was a fantastic experience that taught me a lot about auction houses, as well as other institutions, corporations, and start-ups within the art world. I believe this summer has opened many doors for me, and I am so thankful for the History of Art department and their donor’s support!
From July 1st to August 1st, I interned at Ait institute as a summer intern along with three other interns. I assisted in hosting various training courses and rich art-humanities classes including theories and histories to collectors, opinion leaders and devotee of art with professional global-art-trend analysis in major art-cities such as New York, London, Paris, Tokyo and Hong Kong. During my time at Ait, they were hosting summer classes called “The Rules of Buying and Selling” and “Business in Art.” The classes aim to educate the students enrolled to understand the past, present and the future trends in art and understand the hidden aspects of art. It aims to teach the students to communicate, create and apply applications and experience the new community with their new artistic perspective and understanding. I helped in doing the research for the class materials and organizing the PowerPoint used in class. During my internship, Ait institute worked in collaboration with Art Asia, an art fair representing artists from all around the world. Art Asia held more than 300 artists from 10 countries displayed in 160 booths and broke the limits of the existing art market and organized lectures for potential collectors. I assisted in getting the booths set up and finalizing the schedule for the VIPS. Hye Kyung Park, CEO of Ait institute gave a special lecture to the VIP on the preview days and I had the privilege of making the PowerPoint of her lecture and assisting her in it. Ait Institute has a wide collection of books from artists’ biography, auction sales result, and museum catalogs. I would dedicate two hours every day that I went to work to reorganize them in a manner that would be effective and easy to locate for both the students. I feel extremely honored and grateful for having the privilege to intern and learn under such a dynamic company.
This summer, I had the amazing and life-changing experience of interning as an archival assistant for Dr. Margaret Carney, the founding director of the International Museum of Dinnerware Design (or IMoDD, located in Ann Arbor, MI). Not only did I have the chance to refine and hone my skills and learn an incredible amount of information, I also formed (what I hope to be) a lifelong friendship and mentor/mentee relationship with Margaret (and her three amazing cats, Pingguo, Carob, and Tomato, who I get to see every time I go to work!).
[Image description: The three cats who guard the museum’s office space – Tomato (left), Pingguo (top right), and Carob (bottom right).]
At IMoDD I was exposed to many different tasks and jobs, however my internship was focused around archives, as my goal is to (eventually) get my Master’s in Library Science and become an archivist. My first task was to create scrapbooks of all of the articles, flyers, and publications that the museum sent out or was mentioned in. This involved organizing chronologically, cutting things precisely, and an eye for detail and placement. When I was finished, I had filled out two scrapbooks almost completely.
[Image caption: A page in one of the scrapbooks I completed. This one has an article on the exhibit “Butter,” which was a juried, invitational, and historical exhibition IMoDD put on over summer.]
After I completed the scrapbooks, I catalogued roughly 150 (mostly) archival objects (along with dinnerware itself). In order to do this, I scanned these objects, wrote detailed descriptions of them, and entered them into IMoDD’s database. Occasionally, this involved doing research into who the manufacturer or designer of certain objects was – I spent time conversing with manufacturers and finding information on niche sites. This took a while to learn, but by the end of my internship, I felt very comfortable with the task!
[Image caption: This is an example of a blank catalogue entry in the museum’s database. I filled out roughly 150 over the summer.]
From July 15th through the 21st, I had the opportunity to take over the UM Students’ Twitter account (@UMichStudents) and talk about my summer internship and the museum itself. I thought it would be both a good chance to try working with social media in a museum context and fun to talk about the amazing stuff I was doing. Honestly, I’m not sure how many people I was able to reach, but I think it was a good experience to have, anyways.
[Image caption: My introductory tweet on the UM Students’ Twitter page.]
[Image description: I also took the opportunity to show off some of the items in the Museum’s collection – here you can see some of Dr. Carney’s favorite dinnerware (designed by Eva Zeisel) along with some radioactive Fiesta Ware!]
The International Museum of Dinnerware Design is a small, recently established (2012) museum, containing around 8,000 objects related to dinnerware and the dining experience. Because of this, I learned a lot about what running a small museum is like. Dr. Carney is usually a one person show – with help from volunteers and her board – so I got to see all of the different tasks she has to do on the day-to-day. I helped with the search for places to hold pop-up exhibits and grants and also worked on various membership tasks. I learned a lot about donor relations and the financing questions a small museum, especially one that’s not connected to an institution, faces.
While my thinking about museums as incredibly important cultural institutions hasn’t changed, my thoughts surrounding smaller museums have. I’ve had the chance to see the difficulty they have receiving funding from donors, along with the disparity between state funding, federal funding, and community involvement in comparison to larger, more established museums.
I had a truly amazing internship experience this summer at IMoDD with Margaret, Pingguo, Carob, and Tomato, and I look forward to my continued work with them.
My name is Jane Sheedy, and I am a senior double majoring in History of Art and English. Over the summer I was a Youth and Teen Council Applebaum Intern at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). From May until the first week of August, I assisted the Education Department with a number of projects including infrastructure development for KAWS Effects Design Camp, designing an intersectionality curriculum for MOCAD’s Teen Council, serving as a studio manager at the summer camp, and working to produce and facilitate a family program. One of my favorite parts of the experience was engaging with the middle school aged campers to develop a language for intentionally creating art using the visual analysis skills I had gained as a History of Art major in reverse. It was wonderful to build relationships with the museum staff as well as patrons, and I hope to continue doing this type of work after graduation.
This summer I interned at Asia Art Archive in America (AAA in A) with the generous support of the History of Art Scholarship for Summer Internships. AAA in A is the Brooklyn-based mini hub of Asia Art Archive (AAA), a non-profit organization founded in Hong Kong in 2000 with the mission of making accessible recent histories of art in Asia. AAA in A offers a reading room with materials from the flagship AAA collection, conducts research projects in collaboration with the AAA Hong Kong and New Delhi offices, and presents educational programs to the public throughout the year.
As part of my internship, I catalogued new acquisitions and donations to the AAA in A collection, including artist monographs, reference books, exhibition catalogs, and art-related ephemera. In addition, I compiled pertinent materials on leading Chinese contemporary artists for visiting researchers. I also maintained a web listing of Asian art-related events in the New York City area and worked with AAA in A and AAA researchers to upload and annotate over 1,700 photos as part of a major digitization project. These images were associated with the Joan Lebold Cohen Archive, a collection of approximately 16,500 photo slides from the 1970s to early 2000s documenting art and artists from mainland China and other regions in Asia. While at AAA in A, I also had the opportunity to utilize resources in the collection to conduct individual research on contemporary Tibetan art.
My time at AAA in A this summer immersed me in contemporary art from Asia and the broader New York City arts community. During my internship I was able to attend a number of AAA in A public events, including a hands-on Bookbinding Workshop with artist Chang Yuchen and a talk by Bangladeshi curator Sadya Mizan. The internship also facilitated regular lunchtime conversation with visiting artists, curators, and researchers from neighboring peer institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum and Triangle Arts Association. Each day I was able to have meaningful exchange related to contemporary art with members of the AAA in A team, who have now become great mentors and friends. I truly loved my time at Asia Art Archive in America and am immensely grateful to both AAA in A and the University of Michigan Department of the History of Art for making this incredibly formative experience possible.
Building off of my semester at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art where I took Art and Business intensive courses, I interned at Christie’s Auction House in their Strategic Partnerships Department. In the Strategic Partnerships Department my duties included crafting proposals for potential partnerships, helping to curate my department’s instagram feed, helping with a social media campaign of social media influencers for an upcoming jewelry auction, and assisting in the logistical planning of Christie’s “Art and Tech Summit.”
While at Christie’s, I learned a great deal about the dynamics of a fast-paced, international auction house, with special attention to work culture. Working at an auction house of such high caliber is fascinating because so many different departments have to work together to create one product (the auction). It is also a fascinating industry because with art as the main sellable good, there are factors at play in this particular market that are not in others, including a great deal of subjectivity and emotionalism; a piece of art that was marketed heavily to be sold could flop or could make 3 or 4 times the profit it was expected based on the smallest emotional or financial buyer motivation. This unpredictability is exhilarating. For instance, during my internship I was able to participate in a David Gilmour Guitar auction, which performed significantly better than was expected. It was fun to feel the energy of the room when the gavel when down on each guitar after back and forth bidding.
Working at Christie’s in the Strategic Partnerships Department has cemented my desire to work at the intersection of Art and Business because I have come to realize what a unique environment the Art World is. I am particularly interesting in understanding the implications of art as an investment, as investors increasingly look towards the art market in order to diversify their portfolio. I wonder how that growing trend might affect our daily consumption of art. Furthermore, I am fascinated by how global the art market is and yet how each smaller market functions differently. For example, the tastes of a buyer in Hong Kong are different than those of one in New York; likewise the buying strategies of museums in India are different than those in Chicago. Thank you to my experience at Christie’s Auction House, I now have a number of different art market threads that I would like to follow and learn more about. Most importantly, I now have a firm understanding of how I want to proceed in the future with my career!
This past summer, I participated as an art market research intern at Arthena, a start-up that functions as an equity crowdfunding platform and specializes in the investment of contemporary art. As an intern, I expanded my passion for contemporary art into a business setting and even had the opportunity to develop my experiences from previous internships in the art market. Coming from an auction house, I was familiar with the appraisal process for pricing artworks and knew what to look for in terms of factors that would influence pricing. During my time at Arthena, I spent the days researching artists and their artwork in a cultural and academic setting, but also how their work would relate in a quantitative and qualitative relevance to the art market. I took valuable lessons that I learned in the art history department at U of M, specifically how to consider the work of an artist in a broader, cultural landscape, and for the first time I had a chance to study artists that are creatively relevant in the present day, as well as anticipate artists that I thought would be valued in the future. Through this research, I familiarized myself with galleries, museums, and other secondary market platforms which allowed me to search for patterns and themes when considering gallery representation and artist’s shows. During my internship, I found that the art market was focused on groups of people whose side of the story had been overlooked in the past
These things considered, my internship at Arthena proved to be relevant to my academic and professional aspirations. After my internship, my experience researching the art market put me in an advantageous spot for returning to the auction house industry. I am now using my knowledge of appraisals and the secondary market in the Post-War and Contemporary department at Christie’s. In a career, I want to channel passion into profession, and my love for art and discovering the rich history that it has is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Being a part of the History of Art department on campus gave me the foundation that I needed to turn a passion into a profession.