Meet Erin-Marie Wallace
Vice President of Business Development
MA Fine & Decorative Art, London, 2006
Erin-Marie Wallace is currently the Vice President of Business Development at Gurr Johns. She obtained her Master’s degree in Fine and Decorative Arts in 2006 from Sotheby’s Institute-London. This was preceded by educational opportunities in Hong Kong and throughout the United States, culminating in a Bachelor’s of Fine Art specializing in drawing from the University of Central Florida. She continues to exhibit as a fine artist and her work is held in private collections worldwide. For several years she was the Director and Vetter for a televised auction house, responsible for overseeing four weekly televised auctions including purchasing, consigning, cataloguing and on-air presenting. In 2012, Erin-Marie Wallace became a Florida Certified Auctioneer and Auction House; and is the only Sotheby’s UK Graduate in the southeast United States to hold this distinction.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Some days I can’t believe that I get paid to do what I do, I will not pretend it is easy, quite the contrary, it is hard work. That being said, I am rewarded by having the opportunity to handle some outrageously wonderful objects; things which belong in museums and have not been seen publicly in generations that after auction will not be seen again or seen on museum walls. I also get the opportunity to interact with some really savvy and intelligent collectors assisting them in buying and selling the objects. Occasionally I even get to have the “Antiques Roadshow” moment. I use this phrase when the thing brought to auction is so much more valuable than the consignor ever imagined; it is so rewarding to watch objects be valued for their craftsmanship and historical significance.
In what ways does the master’s degree program that you took at Sotheby’s Institute help you in your current role?
I studied fine art from an early age and worked in the art and design fields before applying to Sotheby’s Institute so I had a solid foundation when I entered the program. The Sotheby’s Institute program and my internship with Sotheby’s New Bond Street taught me how an auction house operates from the inside out and how proper research and cataloguing is conducted and documented. The Sotheby’s Institute program expanded on my Fine Art knowledge and taught me techniques to use when assessing an object by placing it in historical context through design and form. These techniques allow me to understand and catalogue a broad range of art and antiques from different time periods and if it can be catalogued, it can be assessed for value.
Drawing on your own experience, what advice would you give to people hoping to start a career in the art world?
My advice would be to have courage and be tenacious. There is no handbook for entering into the “Art World” and succeeding. Because of this, it can be difficult to make the right connections and partnerships. I recommend internships with reputable and respected individuals and companies. I recommend handling the best, the rarest and most valuable objects in the market possible because this experience will increase understanding between what is great and what is merely good. Lastly, I cannot stress how important it is to act ethically and align yourself with people who do the same because the “Art World” is a small world and one’s reputation is built by their actions.
What was it about the program that made you decide to take a master’s degree at Sotheby’s Institute of Art?
When I applied to the program, I knew that obtaining a degree with Sotheby’s Institute would give me unrivalled credibility and recognition in the field. This is because the program offers access to learn from the best professors and professionals in the art and antiques market. The school provided numerous opportunities to handle the rarest, most valuable and exquisite fine and decorative arts to be found in the auction market, museums and in private house collections.
Where did it all begin? How did you develop your passion for art?
I have always had a passion for fine art and antiques. Tangible things tell the story of our humanity; where we came from and how we lived. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to live in Hong Kong and travel extensively through Europe which engendered this passion on a global scale. These experiences inspired me to continue my Arts education by obtaining a Bachelor’s of Fine Art degree with a specialization in drawing but I also focused on the mediums of ceramics and sculpture.
How should a new student make the most of their time at Sotheby’s Institute in London?
The best advice I can give a new student to the Sotheby’s Institute program is to dive in with confidence. Get to know your professors, they have a wealth of knowledge and experience and are willing to share. Attend as many gallery openings, auctions and opportunities to view private collections as possible; what we work with needs to be handled and seen to be understood. Make time for an internship. One of the best experiences I had was my internship with the British and Continental Furniture department at the Sotheby’s New Bond Street location. It was an invaluable opportunity to understand the business of auctions and handle and research the best objects in the world.
A professor at Sotheby’s Institute once said, “You can’t know everything but you can have smart friends”, so take advantage of the wonderful and intelligent people you meet at the Institute; professors, staff and peers.