The interviews of ProfessioneARTE.it
Elena Zaccarelli Specialist Modern and Contemporary Art Christie's
Art Rights Magazine in collaboration with ProfessioneARTE.it dedicate the first weekly column to the great protagonists of the art world, professionals in a specific sector, today more than ever, in constant change.
Five questions to get a preview of the characteristics of their profession, the daily challenges to face, the choices that determined their path in the system and in the art market, the changes under the banner of digital and the advice for those who want to undertake the same career.
The column with the interviews with the great art professionals becomes an unprecedented point of orientation, reflection and access key to a world still to be discovered.
She is Elena Zaccarelli Specialist Modern and Contemporary Art of Christie’s.
In the interview she sincerely speaks about her professional career in art that began over ten years ago in Florence, in an art gallery and then after several experiences she joined the London auction house in the Milan office.
She experienced the art market on the field, constantly traveling and taking care of the various roles played in the auction house, from logistics, from the creation of the sales mandate, to the coordination of the collection of the work, photography, cataloging, restoration and shipping to the auction house location.
Today Elena is in charge of evaluating works of art and supporting collectors willing to sell or buy with Christie’s, without forgetting the private sales for all categories of competence of the auction house.
For her, being young and woman is also a challenge in the art sector, but professionalism and competence make the real difference in evaluating her work better.
Elena Zaccarelli is an expert in Italian art of the twentieth century, she is responsible for providing assessments and collecting Italian and international works of art, traveling between the various Christie’s locations and following the main auctions of modern and post-war art.
Graduated in Modern Letters with a specialization in Art History at the Alma Mater Studiorum in Bologna, she has been working for ten years in the Italian office of Christie’s, where she has held various roles and she is currently Specialist in Modern and Contemporary Art.
1. How did your journey in the art world begin?
After a three-year degree in Modern Letters and a specialist degree in History of Medieval and Modern Art at the University of Bologna, I abandoned my first passion (the art of the sixteenth century) to get closer to the world of Modern and Contemporary art and to the art market.
I worked in a small art gallery in Florence for about a year, and then moved to Milan for a six-month internship at Christie’s: I wanted to try both markets to understand which context was ideal for me.
After the internship, there were no positions available: in the meantime, I was contacted from Florence where a young gallery owner was looking for a partner to take care of the launch of a new contemporary art gallery in a city – Florence – very difficult towards the contemporary
After a year, Christie’s called me back to the Modern and Contemporary art department: it was 2010, and since then I have been working in the department covering various roles, from the Sales Coordinator to the Junior Specialist, to then become a Specialist in Modern Art and Contemporary.
2. How would you describe your profession today?
Currently I am in charge of evaluating works of art and getting in touch with collectors who want to sell or buy with Christie’s.
I travel a lot and I happen to meet very different people and situations; many of our customers are demanding and “difficult”, used to having little time to listen and convinced that they are often right.
Being young and a woman is a challenge in this field too, but I always repeat that at the end of each appointment the words and the preparation make the difference.
I directly follow many auctions of Impressionist and Modern Art and Post War and Contemporary Art in Europe and America, providing assistance to sellers who have delivered properties and to possible buyers who want to participate in the auction. In addition, I deal with private negotiations for all categories of Christie’s competence.
3. How has your profession changed over time?
As Sales Coordinator, I dealt with the logistics of the department, from the creation of the mandate to sell, to the coordination of the collection of the work, photography, cataloging, restoration and shipment to the auction site: it is a fundamental role because, like an orchestra conductor, you have to make sure that all departments work in harmony.
I then approached the works by starting to study and catalog them: it is always exciting to discover everything that a work can tell you, examining its physical conditions and history (which is often hidden on the back of the work itself). To know how to estimate a work, it is essential to learn to recognize its characteristics and potential: for this reason, cataloging is an obligatory and fundamental step to becoming a good specialist, in my opinion.
From the study of the works we then move on to the study and understanding of the market of the works themselves, and we learn to evaluate them by taking as a reference the performance of similar works on the market.
Speaking of changes in the market more generally, the tastes of collectors have changed in these ten years: we have seen, for example, a gradual return of the figurative, with artists who in recent years had been a bit forgotten and instead have obtained good market results.
Another interesting fact is that relating to the extremely rapid market peak from which some artists benefited, which was then followed by a saturation and a consequent collapse of the ratings; we are increasingly recommending to collectors not to consider the art market as a one-way and always uphill road.
One of the collector’s skills must also be to understand when to sell, and when to keep the works of artists more or less required by the market.
Finally, in recent years we have witnessed an exponential growth in private negotiations (often preferred for their “confidential” and specific character in the choice of works) and online auctions, which especially attract new collectors and young people, probably more at ease with a purchasing system that they can manage directly and in total autonomy.
4. What impact is digital having on your sector?
Digital is fundamental to our profession – we are experiencing this during these days, when we are working at full speed from home with laptops and mobiles.
Calls, videocalls, operating systems and search platforms allow us to be always connected and updated internally and externally.
We have organized “private viewing rooms” for works in private negotiation, and we are further enhancing digital communication for all our initiatives.
5. What would you recommend to a young person who wants to pursue your profession?
We always tell students that to work in an auction house there is no preferential academic preparation: surely universities that prepare students both in the economic and artistic fields offer a more complete basic preparation baggage.
The art market is known by “living it”, starting to practice the search engines for art, following the artists, galleries and auctions.
Technical knowledge is fundamental; However, you also need good listening skills and attention, to always be sure to grasp the customer’s needs and concerns, and work to achieve the best results together.
Finally, the English language is essential in the art world: auction houses like Christie’s are international mechanisms and a good command of the language is an essential requirement for working with us.
Also Elena Zaccarelli is on ProfessioneARTE THE FIRST GUIDE FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO TURN ART INTO A PROFESSION
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