Madeline Pittel '24 interned at Sotheby's in New York City this summer.


For Madeline Pittel ’24, interning at Sotheby’s has been a longstanding dream. In high school, she would walk by the auction house’s large New York office en route to a job elsewhere, all the while thinking, “I want to work there one day, and I’m going to wait for my junior year college internship. So this is a five- or six-year plan-in-the-making.” 

This summer, Pittel is working in the company’s luxury wine and spirits department, her first-choice role in a competitive internship program. Explaining her interest in the field, Pittel said, “I spent a semester in France, and thought it would be cool to expand my knowledge of wine … its culinary history, too, which is something I’ve always wanted to learn about.” 

Days in the office entail a range of responsibilities, including organizing spreadsheets, taking inventory, tasting products, running errands, scrubbing glasses, and arranging expensive shipments. As Sotheby’s hosts social events for big companies and banks, Pittel might also be tasked with setting up and cleaning after parties. “There’s always so much going on,” she remarked.                       

Madeline Pittel ’24

Majors: Art history, French & Francophone studies
Hometown: Glen Head, N.Y.
High school: : Portledge School


Aside from all this, the program also involves a capstone project, for which all interns must come up with an answer to the question: What is Sotheby’s missing? For Pittel’s project, she plans to emphasize the company’s history and accessibility. “Not many companies have been around since 1744, doing exactly what they’re still doing now,” she explained. “I also want to show people that Sotheby’s isn’t just for multimillion-dollar paintings — we sell stuff for hundreds of dollars, we have bottles of wine that sell for $20, we have the complete range.” 

Along similar lines, Pittel emphasized the company’s down-to-earth culture, a quality that one may not expect from a purveyor of luxury goods. “I think it’s such a misconception that people who work in this industry will all be stuffy,” she said. “In reality, it’s just people doing what they love … most of us dress casually, and it’s a very approachable staff.”

As an art history major, Pittel appreciates the level of specialized expertise that all Sotheby’s employees have. “It’s some of the best people in the business if you’re interested in the art world,” she said. Consisting of scholars and businesspeople alike, the environment is something between a museum and a for-profit company, Pittel explained. “It’s a fast, client-facing industry with a real scholarly side,” she said.

This combination suits perfectly the interests Pittel has developed at Hamilton, where she studies art and works at the Wellin Museum. Aside from this, she is co-chair of Campus Activities Board (CAB), a role to which she attributes many skills used daily at her internship. “It’s a lot of nitty-gritty planning, teamwork, running meetings, time management, and organizing events,” she said. “So, skills that aren’t exactly about art, but that come into play with all kinds of different industries.”

Going forward, Pittel hopes to continue in the auction business as she moves into her final year on the Hill. “I love what I’ve been doing this summer,” she said. “I hope more Hamilton students look into it.”

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