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Read what alumni have to say about our Foundations of Western Art Program at the Institute.


Natascha Reihl

Age: 24 years old

Occupation: Student

What is your nationality/where are you from? Munich, Germany.

What did you enjoy most about the Foundation of Western Art Semester Course?
From the beginning I really appreciated the small size of the class, which allowed a lot of interaction during the lectures and encouraged many interesting discussions. The very different but equally competent professors explained all the significant and important art historical periods, turning points, artists and art works from the Ancient Greek to contemporary art. Additionally, the teachers’ various backgrounds contributed to a diverse and all-embracing education. While one lecturer was an experienced art dealer and could introduce us to the commercial viewpoints on art objects, another lecturer had been working in museum education and art journalism and could give us interesting insights on the different ways to experience art.

How did the course contribute to your development?
Before I started the Semester Course at Sotheby’s Institute of Art I studied economics. I decided to study ‘Foundations of Western Art’ as I was looking for an intensive and extensive course that was appropriate for art history beginners and that could prepare me for further studies in art history.

In the end, the course not only provided me with an extensive and profound foundation in Western art, but also fostered my aim to apply for a postgraduate course in art history. The assignments had a key role as well; the essays, visual analysis tests, and presentations required different skills. The diversity of assignments offered opportunities for every student and likewise reflected a number of tasks of various professions in the art world.

What have you done since the course?
The organization and the academic environment of Sotheby’s Institute of Art convinced me to continue studying and I decided to take the MA in Fine and Decorative Art and Design at The Institute, starting in September.

How was the experience of Rome and the other study visits?
To gain a full understanding of an art object and a period the course included many site visits to museums and galleries in and around London. These site visits were very well organized and the guided tours helped us to evaluate the objects themselves and their correlation, influences, and impact on subsequent periods. My personal favorite lectures were the handling sessions when we were allowed to literally handle art objects while experts explained the specific characteristics of different materials, productions, and their impact on the object’s provenance and value. One of the highlights of the course was the study trip to Rome. Within one very intense week we experienced the eternal city and its many amazing sites - from the ancient Roman Forum to baroque churches including a unique tour through the Vatican.


Florence Dassonville

Age: 26 years old

Occupation: I am currently working at Sotheby’s as a Digital Media Assistant, a role that perfectly marries my initial training in advertising with both my interest in art and digital marketing.

What is your nationality/where are you from? Belgium.

What did you enjoy most about the Foundations of Western Art semester course?
For me the best parts of the program were the knowledgeable and enthusiastic lecturers who are all experts in their areas and inspired a passion for history of art. The small class size gave me the opportunity to interact closely with arts professionals.

How did the course contribute to your development?
I knew I wanted to pursue a career within the art world. The course enabled me to develop my knowledge of art and in particular gain a deeper understanding of Western art. It also helped me to extend my theoretical knowledge by providing me with further insight into art business. Meeting inspirational professionals from various areas of the art sector helped me to build a good network of contacts. The extensive range of experiences available at Sotheby’s Institute, both academically and socially, made my semester highly rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable.

What have you done since the course?
After my time at Sotheby’s Institute, I interned for six months in the Impressionist and Modern Art Department at Sotheby’s. Previously, I had volunteered at several galleries and I have also recently completed an internship at Phillips Auction as a Client Development Assistant.

How was the experience of Rome and of the other study visits?
It was such an amazing and enriching experience and a good opportunity to get to know the other students on my courses better and form close bonds. I greatly enjoyed being close to so many art masterpieces and being able to learn more about them through specialized tours and lectures. The visit to the Vatican was a fascinating experience for me, with behind-the-scenes access to the restoration studios and a memorable private talk in the Sistine Chapel.


Natalia Deryabin

Age: 24 years old

Occupation: Exhibitions Manager at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow.

What is your nationality/where are you from? Russia.

What did you enjoy most about the Foundations of Western Art semester course?
Everything! The friendly atmosphere of The Institute, the professional skills of the lecturers, the unique possibility to get to know various specialists from all over the world, an assessment system that always makes you work harder and do your best to perform better, and of course, the study tour to Rome was amazing.

How did the course contribute to your development?
In addition to the academic knowledge I have gained, my studies at Sotheby’s Institute gave me a chance to work with a group of people with completely different ways of seeing and understanding art, which turns out to be very useful for my career in the art world. The Sotheby’s Institute education also contributes to the integration of the students into important processes, such as art fairs, allowing them insight into the behind-the-scenes part of the art world and, most importantly, letting them meet art professionals and make useful contacts.

What have you done since the course?
After the course I applied for an internship but unfortunately another candidate was chosen. This showed me how highly competitive the art world is. Two weeks later I got an internship at a museum of contemporary art where I had a chance to try myself in various departments. I also took another internship at an auction house in order to decide which environment interested me the most. After this I finally came up with a conclusion on what occupation suited me best and I sent my CV to a museum of Fine Arts (and remembering my experience with my first application for the internship, I decided to act with more persistence). I now work in the exhibitions department and I can definitely say that my experience of completing the final project for the Foundations course was the incredibly useful for this role.

How was the experience of Rome and of the other study visits?
The visit to Rome gave us an exceptional opportunity to visit the Vatican Museums restoration lab. Furthermore, it was an outstanding experience to visit Italy not as mere tourists but as young professionals able to analyze and understand the monuments they see. It is always better to study art when you see it in front of you and not on the pictures, so this study trip was a “handling session” of almost all the styles and periods we had studied.

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