Alumni spotlights

From leading major galleries to initiating life-saving NHS programmes, what connects all of our alumni is a passion and inner resolve to use the study of art history as a catalyst for change.

Our graduates challenge the status quo through art and creativity – politically, economically and socially.

They are advocates for the arts, moving into business and non-visual arts fields, using the skills they learnt at The Courtauld to analyze, challenge and influence change in those chosen sectors.

They influence by leading debate and generate new knowledge through the curation of major exhibitions as academics and as international journalists.

And many of them are leading and transforming the major public galleries, museums, institutions, art fairs and creative spaces across the globe.

COVID and the Creative Industries – we asked two alumni how the pandemic has affected them, their work and their industry over the past year

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Preeya Seth Franklin (BA 2006), Senior Specialist, Impressionist & Modern Art at Bonhams New York

Preeya Seth Franklin (BA 2006), Senior Specialist, Impressionist & Modern Art at Bonhams New York

 

What have been the biggest COVID-related challenges to have affected your industry over the past year? 

PF: Much of what we do in the auction industry involves being in-person: from physically cataloguing the artworks included in a sale, to meeting clients and viewing their collections, to conducting a live auction. We have implemented significant logistical and technological innovations supported by a traditional foundation of expertise and service to overcome some of the major limitations created by the pandemic.

How has your own specific role been affected?

PF: I really enjoy that in-person aspect mentioned above – handling the artworks, meeting with colleagues and clients. While I was working on-site when necessary with strict safety precautions to prepare the catalogue and conduct scheduled preview viewings for our November 2020 auction, most meetings, site visits, and other appointments have been via video. I do miss researching at the Frick Library and look forward to the reopening of our city’s invaluable art libraries when possible!

Are there any unexpected, positive outcomes to have emerged from the past year? (E.g. new digital initiatives, healthier work-life balance etc.?)

PF: Rapid advances in digital initiatives have been spurred on by the pandemic. The Bonhams Impressionist & Modern Art department held its first online-only sale last May, and we have followed up with a second one this January/February. We have also converted traditional live auctions to hybrid auctions that involve remote telephone bidding, and now offer Virtual Valuations to clients. Technology is being developed and used in a smart way to help grow business.

What do you think the future looks like for your particular industry, post-COVID?

PF: I think we are going to see continued intelligent improvements in technology to enhance how we do business in the art world which might not have otherwise been embraced so quickly.

Finally, what three things have kept you sane through the challenges of the past year? (E.g. nature, exercise, baking, meditation, Netflix etc.)

PF: Regular walks in parks and nature preserves, connecting with friends and family over phone and video, and reading for pleasure have all been especially important.

Man in a suit facing the camera.
Noah Horowitz (MA 2003, PhD 2008) – Director Americas for Art Basel, Miami, and Member of Art Basel’s Executive Committee.

Noah Horowitz (MA 2003, PhD 2008) – Director Americas for Art Basel, Miami, and Member of Art Basel’s Executive Committee.

 

What have been the biggest COVID-related challenges to have affected your industry over the past year?

NH: Covid-19 brought the art fair landscape to a near total standstill last year, starting with the cancellation of Art Basel Hong Kong in March. For a business fundamentally reliant on large-scale gatherings and the fluid movement of goods, services and people across borders, the global lockdowns, travel restrictions and ever-shifting health and safety advisories posed a daunting and unprecedented challenge.

How has your own specific role been affected?

NH: My own role developed considerably, from its more “normal”, and already highly consuming, articulation around leading our team and activities in the Americas to all-hands-on-deck triage for our global organization: war room deliberations for our fairs; concepting and rolling out new digital products and services; reimagining touchpoints with our communities in the absence of IRL events; as well as the basic day-to-day adjustments of working from home and keeping our team on track and motivated from a remove.

Are there any unexpected, positive outcomes to have emerged from the past year? (E.g. new digital initiatives, healthier work-life balance etc.?)

NH: The art world went truly digital over the past year. The extraordinary embrace of digital channels for buying and selling art as well as, more fundamentally, for creating new layers of meaning and context was remarkable: artists, galleries, institutions, collectors and curiosity seekers – whether by choice or sheer necessity – took to the internet last year in ways we might not previously have thought possible, creating a template for real change in the future. COVID also necessitated some jarring reevaluations of things our industry took for granted up until now – from tightly packed exhibition, fair, biennial and auction calendars, to travel, entertainment and print-heavy marketing – so I’m hopeful that this will ultimately lead to a healthier and more sustainable ecosystem over the longer term.

What do you think the future looks like for your particular industry, post-COVID?

NH: Fairs will return. There’s no doubt about this from my vantage, and it’s quite possible that there will be a huge frenzy around them again due to all the pent-up demand for real experiences, both with art and also just with other people. But there will also be greater selectivity: some fairs, unfortunately, probably won’t make it due to the challenges of the past year, and audiences of all kinds are likely to be more selective and specific with the fairs that they do ultimately attend. Fairs, lastly, stand to be powerfully reimagined, with far greater emphasis than ever before on their digital layers – beneficial for those attending in person, and for others from afar – and also, more fundamentally, vis-à-vis how they service their communities in response to the shifted landscape and expectations of a post-COVID world.

Finally, what three things have kept you sane through the challenges of the past year? (E.g. nature, exercise, baking, meditation, Netflix etc.)

NH: 1. My wife, Louise (also a Courtauld alum), and our kids, Sif, and Leo – it’s clichéd, but COVID truly has absolutely brought us all closer together, which has been amazing; 2. Daily running regimen – a head-clearing start to each morning that gets me outside and in touch with nature; 3. Positive Intelligence, an app-based mental fitness program – a complete game-changer in establishing balance and focus during the ups and downs of the past year.

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