Christie's | Fine Art Auction House


25 January 2010  |  Impressionist Art   |  Article

The Interview with Giovanna Bertazzoni, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art in London

Tell us a little about yourself and your role at Christie's?
I am Italian and have been a senior specialist at Christie’s since June 2006, becoming head of department in London in 2008. I celebrated ten years at Christie’s two years ago and worked for a large part of my career developing the Works on Papers sale by Impressionist and Modern masters. Before I joined Christie’s I worked for the Musée Granet in Aix en Provence and the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts in San Francisco. I grew up in Pavia, a beautiful medieval town in Northern Italy, near Milan, where one of the oldest universities in Italy was founded in the XIII century. It is still one of the most prestigious universities in the country. My dad is a scientist, my mother a professor of Italian: my family’s, and the city’s academic environment, has shaped a lot of my young life.

What is the most exciting sale/experience you have had with the company?
The sale of the Bloch Bauer paintings by Klimt in 2006 was probably one of the most exciting moments since I joined the company.  These were the most exquisite works of art, coupled with the extraordinary story that went with them.  Art market, political and art history combined together as the project of a lifetime for our department.

What are the highlights of your upcoming sale? Was it a challenge for you and the team to gather consignments?
Our sale takes place on 2 Feburary and is estimated to realize between £50 to 80 milion. Leading highlights include Gitane by Kees van Dongen (1877-1968), a work that encapsulates the energy, excitement and creativity that struck the artist during this period; Espagnole by Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962), an extremely rare Cubo-Futurist works executed by the artist in the 1910s. Further highlights include Homme assis sur une chaise and Tête de femme (Jacqueline), both by Pablo Picasso; and Nu aux jambes croisées by Henri Matisse (1869-1954). It is always an exciting challenge to find great works of art for sale and the landscape remains very competitive and aggressive. However the team and I have worked very hard to source the right works to offer to the current market. We have a broad range of works of art that are very focused on what is really appealing to collectors today.

What do you do the day of the sale?
I get up early and say goodbye to Martino, my 5 year old son and tell him that he will see his Mamma the following morning. He doesn’t see much of me around the sales and I have to make it up to him in the brief periods between gathering and selling! I always get quite nervous in the run up to the evening and spend most of the day making sure that we have done everything that we need to do to ensure success by lining up buyers for each work. I talk constantly to the team: we share the most recent developments, and I spend most of my time with Olivier Camu, the department’s International Director and leading business-getter, as well as with Jussi, our auctioneer. We go through the book carefully and, as he remains very involved with collectors in our category, he is a great support to our team. I make sure that my hair is in place – it is quite uncontrollable – and that I am looking ready to face the audience and my colleagues and lead from the front looking happy and excited, which I am.

You have had a leadership role in the Work/Life initiative - tell us a little about that project?
I understand as well as anyone the challenges in balancing a role as a mother, a wife, a daughter and being a professional. There are real pressures at home and being the head of Impressionist Art in London is a challenging and pressurized job. The project I undertook with the team on the Work/Life initiative has been an incredibly exciting and rewarding one. We spoke to colleagues of all ages, both sexes and from all over Christie’s to get their input on what Christie’s could do to support Work/Life balance and to date we have helped support the introduction of a global Flexible Working policy and this week we see the launch of Emergency Dependent Care in the UK for all employees. I also work to help support working mothers going on maternity leave and returning to work as much as possible, as it is a lot to juggle!

So what do you do when you are not at work?
I spend every moment I have outside the office with my family and friends. To relax, I go jogging – as often as I can. I adore running, and I love London parks for this. I also love skiing, and I will join my parents and siblings in Italy for some time together in the Alps, during my son’s half-term, after the sales. Finally, in the summer, I love escaping to Tuscany – I have been spending my summer break in Elba (an island off the coast of Tuscany) since I was a small child, and I feel very strongly about continuing this family tradition. It is a very unpretentious, beautiful part of Italy – I encourage you all to discover it.

Related Sale
Sale 7831
Impressionist/Modern Evening Sale
2 Feb 2010
London, King Street

Related Departments
Impressionist & Modern Art

Giovanna Bertazzoni, Head of the London Impressionist and Modern Art department, has been with Christie's since 1998. Here she tells us a little about herself, her most exciting experience with the company, the upcoming sale and work life balance.