It’s hard to sell art to people who don’t know much about it. Part of the appeal of collecting is participating in an enthusiastic community and developing a vocabulary for thinking and talking about visual art. In 2018, Phillips launched its Art Matters panel discussion series, hosted by Arnold Lehman, former director of the Brooklyn Museum
. The events, according to Nussbaum, “[have] been a huge success with renowned speakers talking about a variety of fascinating topics,” and have brought in attendees “who otherwise may not have ever felt invited to step through our doors.” Such panels help “demystify the art world,” he added, and make it less intimidating.
For his part, Pollack hosts intimate evenings at Sotheby’s, teaching attendees how to check Old Masters artworks’ condition, attribution, provenance, and quality. Attendees typically include young museum patrons, alumni associations (including Harvard and Yale), and financial or law groups. “We try and give a vocabulary, he said, as the auction house attempts to “spread the gospel.”
Christie’s holds its own version of art education events—Christie’s Lates, which take place in London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and New York. The evenings are accessible, with free entry, food, and drink. Guest experts speak on aesthetic topics such as wellness and contemporary artists’ influence on pop culture, while the auction house displays highlights from upcoming sales.