Putting Their Gavels to Work

Putting Their Gavels to Work

Kate Flitcroft, Tom Best and Gemma Sudlow were among the graduates in 2012 from Christie’s in-house Auctioneering School taught by Hugh Edmeades in London. Where has that training taken them?Kate FlitcroftMs. Flitcroft, 37, is a Kansas native who spent 10 years with Christie’s and since 2017 has worked in London as a silver and jewelry specialist for the Edinburgh-based auctioneers Lyon & Turnbull. “When I’m auctioneering, I feel in a state of flow. I lose myself in the room, in the bidders and in stoking the competition,” Ms. Flitcroft said. She has also seen changes in that room, she said. “Now, there are more women on the rostrum.” She began wielding the gavel in 2010 and two years later was invited to attend the training. “It was a five-month process — I’ve never worked so hard for anything before.” Mr. Edmeades, she said, “taught me that you can be a good auctioneer by acting like one, but you’ll never be a great auctioneer unless you are one. His approach encouraged me to develop my own style and be myself while selling.”Tom BestMr. Best, 32, who was born in Dorset, spent seven years at Christie’s. He now runs his own London auction house, the Auction Collective, as a way to fill a gap in the market for “studio-fresh” contemporary art.“With my love of art history, I knew I wanted to work in the art world so started doing work experience in every part of the industry. When I saw the auction rooms, I was completely hooked,” Mr. Best said, adding, “I loved seeing the auctioneers carefully negotiate the sale of each object to a room full of passionate collectors and the following rush of happiness from a buyer when they ‘won’ the work.”In the training, he said, “Hugh taught everything from bidding increments, voice coaching and auction etiquette to tips on maximizing each sale for the consignor. But the lesson I learned most from Hugh is that empathy and respect for the bidders is everything. An auction room has to be a comfortable environment for buyers where everyone is treated equally by a trustworthy auctioneer. You only earn that trust by being fair, considerate and welcoming to every bidder.”Gemma SudlowMs. Sudlow, 38, has remained at Christie’s, now serving as vice president and head of the department of private and iconic collections in New York.After living in Japan for a year, she was inspired “to pursue a career within the arts that would combine travel, commerce and art — the auction world seemed the best place to combine these passions.”“Learning the ropes on the numbers is just one small part of the overall performance and agility that’s required to be an auctioneer,” Ms. Sudlow, a Briton, said of her training. “Hugh’s comprehensive training ensures you’re prepared for every eventuality, both good and unexpected. Most importantly, he taught me the value of being myself and putting clients first in every interaction from the podium.”


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