Hamiltonians at Sotheby’s in New York (from left): Kunter Kula ’11, Max Freedman ’17, Charlotte Van Dercook ’14, Halina Loft ’15, and Chip Bent ’06.
It’s a job, which means it comes with deadlines, bottom lines, clients, crazy hours, and stress. Such things are rendered incidental, however, when reverential colleagues gather to watch the uncrating of a Monet. Six Hamilton alumni who work at the venerable auction house Sotheby’s New York talk about what they do.

Chip Bent
Charles “Chip” Bent ’06

Charles “Chip”
Bent ’06

Vice President / Business Manager, Impressionist and Modern Art

At Sotheby’s since 2009
Master’s in Art Business, Sotheby’s Institute of Art
Hamilton Majors: Art History and Economics

I am a liaison between our business side and specialist side, which works with clients. I manage the money, so I do our annual financial plan and our forecasting. It’s essentially my job to start the process of trying to figure out the type of financial deal structure that we can offer clients that will give them what they need and be as competitive as possible with our main competition while still being as profitable as possible for us.

The last project I worked on when I was with Sotheby’s Hong Kong as a business director for jewelry was the sale of a pink dia-mond called the CTF Pink Star, an internally flawless diamond that was 59.6 carats. We sold it for $71.2 million. It set a record for the most expensive work ever sold at auction in Asia. I did not get to touch it, but I was able to see it. When it eventually made it to Hong Kong, it showed up with an army of security guards, and then they brought out this box that fit in the palm of your hand. The juxtaposition of the two things was kind of fascinating.

People often ask, how did you end up in this job and how did you think to study art history and econ? It was kind of by accident. Starting at Hamilton and thinking, of course, I knew everything, I only wanted to study the things that I wanted to study. During orientation they had assigned me to a temporary advisor — [Professor of French] Martine Guyot-Bender. I went into her office and she said, “Okay, let’s see what you’re interested in taking.” She looked up from the paper and essentially said, “You know, you’re a one-trick pony; you really need to diversify.” I said, “No, with all due respect, this is why I came to Hamilton.” We went back and forth, and she said, “Listen, you need to try a science or an art [class]. You need to branch out.” She pointed me toward Professor [of Art History] John McEnroe, and I took his intro class and then every class he offered. I ended up double majoring in economics and art history.

Charlotte Van Dercook ’14
Charlotte Van Dercook ’14

Charlotte Van Dercook ’14

Associate Vice President/Head of Contemporary Curated

At Sotheby’s since 2014
Hamilton Major: Art History

Probably my favorite thing to do for our sale, in particular Contemporary Curated, is to establish a new record for an artist. There’s an artist who just passed away in 2018 [Jack Whitten], and a collector who owned a painting by the artist that they purchased in 1992 for $5,000. We told them the estimate was $300,000 to $500,000. They were floored. And then we sold the work — the new record for the artist, which is $2.7 million.

I work on a variety of events, and now I’m an auctioneer as well. It was pretty difficult to do; it’s around six months of training. But I’ve spoken at a number of events for Sotheby’s with my ­experience in Contemporary Curated. Last season we had a 600-person cocktail event where I actually was lucky enough to help introduce Oprah Winfrey.

The focus on writing at Hamilton was crucially important in proving myself at Sotheby’s. My ability to write about art was important. I took a variety of public speaking courses, and that really helped me as well. Public speaking is hugely important in any career that you have, and particularly here at Sotheby’s, that has helped me distinguish myself.

Halina Loft ’15
Halina Loft ’15

Halina Loft ’15

Associate Editor, Editorial Department

At Sotheby’s since 2019
Hamilton Major: English Literature;
Minor: Art History

I’m in the editorial department, a division of the marketing department. Our job is to write and produce content to promote different auctions happening through the New York office. The aim is to tell the story behind the artwork, to highlight a work to potential buyers in a way that they may not normally see.

We were selling a really rare first-edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. It was fun writing a story about that book, the entire story of what that book is. It meant a day of me talking with specialists in their field, the absolute experts, and it’s such a privilege that I can just walk downstairs and talk with them. The whole experience allowed me to really dive into my nerdiness.

We on the editorial team have to cover the live auctions. There are big ones in the spring and fall, which include the contemporary art and the impressionist and modern art auctions. So in the spring, I covered the big impressionist art evening auction. That night we set a new record for Monet, his Meules. I was downstairs watching the live auction and then had to quickly run upstairs to write the article and publish it. It was a great experience to have the opportunity to break such an incredible story.

It’s been remarkable how much my majors have benefited me along the way, English more than anything. But now I feel so happy that I’m able to use all the skills and knowledge I picked up in my art history lectures. I’m bringing it up again [in my work], as I have to essentially write art history papers that grab our audiences’ attention. Having those writing skills down pat has really helped. (Thanks Professor [of Art Emerita Deborah] Pokinski!)

Nina Piro ’10
Nina Piro ’10

Nina Piro ’10

Specialist, Impressionist and Modern Art 

At Sotheby’s since 2016
Master’s in Art Business, Sotheby’s Institute of Art
Hamilton Majors: Art History and French

I specifically work on our day sale, which is a biannual sale. We sell in November and May, and it’s generally around a $40 million value overall, and there are about 300, 350, works of art. I work on sourcing material, pricing material, the day-to-day catalogue production, research, cataloguing. And making sure that we’re on track to actually get everything done that we need to do for the day of the sale — and to get the catalogue out on time. I also run our online sales for the department.

I came to Hamilton wanting to study art history and had really enjoyed the department when I visited and wanted to be somewhere where there was a small museum where I could interact with the professors in a smaller environment. I did the year abroad in Paris. A lot of what we do in my department at Sotheby’s is work with third-party authenticators who are mostly all in France, so I joke that my spoken French is really bad, but I can write a lot of French emails really quickly, which helped me get this job and also stay in it. I had interned at Sotheby’s while I was at Hamilton in 2009. 

It’s funny, you definitely have days where you are numb to the art, and then there are days when you are just so blown away by the power of the artworks themselves. I don’t know if you saw it in the news, but we recently sold the record price for a Monet Haystacks. And the day that it came to Sotheby’s, I didn’t know. It had been so confidential that the department didn’t really even know about it, just a few people who had been working on it. So the head of the department came over and had all of us go downstairs and look at the painting as it came out of the crate. We all got a little bit weepy. It is a museum-quality piece. You definitely have some emotional moments for the artwork and things you really fall in love with, and that was one.

Max Freedman ’17
Max Freedman ’17

Max Freedman ’17

Web Producer, Editorial Department

At Sotheby’s since 2018
Hamilton Major: Studio Art; Minors: Art History and Economics

Basically I help manage the sothebys.com website — I put up auctions, I organize content like articles and videos, I manage some of the pages and department pages. And then I also do design for Sotheby’s magazine. My job is something I really enjoy because I love art history, but I also love making art and this is the perfect combination of those two things. I get to learn about all of the art and history that come through the building and use my creativity and skill set to figure out the best way to present it to a larger audience.

Technically, I’m more of a content manager. I don’t write too many articles, but there have been cases where I’ve found something pretty interesting, and we’re trying to figure out a way to help promote the sale, and there are times when I’ll volunteer to write a piece even though I’m not one of the staff writers. It’s been received really well, and I definitely think my Hamilton education is giving me the confidence and the writing skills to be able to do that.

One of the coolest things about my job is the opportunity to see such a wide variety of art in person and almost every day. Especially when the exhibitions go up before the auctions; you might never see the same grouping of art in the same room ever again. Helping to tell the stories behind these works makes it that much more meaningful. It’s a unique experience that I really value and find very exciting.

Last sale season there was a Monet Haystacks painting that sold and set an auction record for the artist. That’s my favorite Monet series and getting to see one in the place I worked was really cool.

Kunter Kula ’11
Kunter Kula ’11

Kunter Kula ’11

Assistant Vice President / Senior Account Manager

At Sotheby’s since 2018
Hamilton Major: Economics; Minor: Art History

I work in valuations. I’m an account manager, the point person for our clients. Generally our clients will collect in multiple categories: contemporary art, impressionists, American. These are all different spcialties that we bring together in creating an appraisal. I organize our teams. We visit sometimes to check out the artwork, condition, and then create reports. Essentially it’s a business development project for us.

Maybe six months ago, we were valuing for a very big client about 23 artworks. It wasn’t many by any means, but I think it ended up being almost $1.7 billion in total value. These were of the impressionist/modernist canon of artists.

I’ve spent my entire career in the contemporary art world. I worked at a contemporary art gallery doing sales, and I worked for a contemporary art collector as a collection manager, so my expertise mostly comes from understanding the contemporary art market, which is a very hot and sought-after market these days.

It was interesting because I came to Hamilton thinking I was going to study biochemistry. I was always good in biology. This is a true testament of liberal arts education, I suppose. I started taking some art history courses. I was always interested in the arts. I had an affinity for it, but I didn’t know what it would look like for me in a career sense. Actually my second year I was in the Hamilton in New York City program, and I interned at Christie’s. It was an incredible exposure to the art world at a firsthand level. That’s, I think, what solidified my interest. It was like, “Oh, OK, this could be a career for me, and I really enjoy this.” Thereafter, the rest is history, a little bit. I turned to the econ and art history track, and after Hamilton took my first job at Sperone Westwater Gallery.

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