Cheyenne Westphal shares the history of her professional path in the auction world
ON A PERSONAL NOTE, I’D LIKE TO POSE A QUESTION THAT I AM SURE WILL INTEREST EVERYONE WHO IS THINKING ABOUT A CAREER IN THE ARTS. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE?
When I was at St. Andrews, I received a scholarship to study in California and took an art history course that was very traditional. The first lecture that addressed contemporary art was on Cindy Sherman and I wanted to know more!
My first job was at Sotheby’s. I applied in 1990 and had the advantage, not as common at the time, of being bilingual. I started in the Impressionist Department cataloguing for the first year. There is an enormous volume of material to research, to estimate to determine if it should be consigned. I did this all day long. One develops a great deal of knowledge and also the eye to recognize a wonderful work by seeing a great many lesser examples.
YOU HAVE SUCH A PRESTIGIOUS, AND DESERVEDLY SO, POSITION. DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS OR AMBITIONS FOR THE FUTURE?
I love what I do. It doesn’t get boring. Although the format stays the same, there is always new material, new collections, new clients. I can’t get blasé about it when I am surrounded by extraordinary works such as the group of Richters, the Clyfford Stills and the minimalist works coming us this November.
It is completely interesting to make auction history – such as with the Damien Hirst single artist sale in 2008. This year has been one of extraordinary accomplishment bringing in the great German works from the Sixties. In the private sale sector, I enjoy making the deal, finding exactly the work that someone is looking fr, knowing where all the works are and approaching the owner.
I love the momentum of auction, the crescendo of the events leading up to the auction itself.
THANK YOU, CHEYENNE, VERY MUCH FOR YOUR TIME AND ASTUTE KNOWLEDGE AND FOR THE PLEASURE OF YOUR ABSOLUTE DELIGHT IN WHAT YOU DO.
Next week, I look forward to interviewing Nicholas Christopher, who heads Turon Travel, the designated travel agency specialists for art fairs around the world. In anticipation of Miami Art Basel, I am very pleased to have a chance to speak with him.