Junior specialist - modern and contemporary art (Auction house)
My name is Elena Pasqualini. I have graduated in Art History and Heritage Preservation at the University of Udine and I am currently Junior Specialist in the Modern and Contemporary Art Department of the Auction House Il Ponte, in Milan.
What led you to choose Humanistic Studies?
My first greatest fortune is that I have always been curious, as a child and as a grown person: that is for sure. I was (and still am) curious to know, to learn, to discover new things, to find out who we are, where do we come from – so, in short, I was kind of a history buff. My second great fortune is that my grandparents were teachers (History and Philosophy, Italian literature and Latin). As a child I did not spent entire days in front of a TV, I preferred to hear stories from them and play outside.
Indeed I also love sports. I like to think that both practicing sport in an agonistic manner and my spirit of inquiry have forged my personality: persistence, endurance, spirit of sacrifice and teamwork together with thirst for knowledge and determination to reach my own goals. In this sense, I would say that my university choice was a consequence of all these premises.
Have you ever been abroad during your university education?
In 2007 I applied for an Erasmus grant. Thanks to this (and a little economical help of my parents) I could live in Madrid, at the Universidad Complutense, for eleven months. I have to confess, at first I was a bit hesitant, but it turned out to be one of the most beautiful times of my life. Actually my stay in Spain should have been shorter, only nine months, but I decided to write my Bachelor's thesis there, so I could stay a little longer: the theme was the expansion of the Prado Museum by Rafael Moneo, which was inaugurated that very same year. I was even able to interview the Deputy Director Gabriele Finaldi (the current Director of the National Gallery in London).
A few months after graduating, I was back in Madrid with a Leonardo da Vinci grant which allowed me to do an internship at the Prado.
These two experiences were my first step towards my future career: this was followed by the possibility to work at the Collezione Farnesina (Contemporary Art), then by Christie's, then by Sotheby's Milano...
What role does your humanistic education play in your current occupation?
Without doubt I have chosen the right path for my current career. Many of my colleagues have a different educational background (usually economical), but I do not regret my decision at all: first of all, my course of study allowed me to learn the development of Art through the centuries; secondly, it introduced me to my "good teachers" – and among them I would like to mention Linda Borean. Courses like Modern Art History, Museology and History of collecting were some of the most enlightening for me. Research, investigation, the greatest attention to the tiniest details, and an infinite passion: University offered me all this, and I have learned it full of enthusiasm.
Today, whenever I evaluate an artistic work for my job, I have to consider several factors: to look for similar cases on websites as Artnet or Artprice and take an average, that simply will not do. It is necessary to reconstruct the work's history, to understand its origin, construct a valid bibliography, contact archives and foundations, assess its conservation state...
Do you think that humanistic studies could pave the way for various careers?
We are living in a time that openly encourages scientific/technological specialised qualifications, to the detriment of Humanities: that is a fact. "You cannot live on culture", that is a constant refrain, and I myself am not going to take up the cudgels for such a study choice no matter what. It is probably true that other sectors can guarantee better professional chances and higher wages. However, it is also true that a humanistic preparation can open the door to many different career paths, as long as there is the will to make them count – otherwise, they will be a mere excuse to pass time by pretending to do something. It is too easy to give up and complain that there is no work: what really makes the difference are personal motivation and tenacity. You have to be bold enough to change, to adapt, even by moving somewehere else more or less far away, if necessary. True, it will not be easy, but success depends on our own attitude.
What would you recommend to young people struggling with the choice of the right study programme?
I would suggest them to take their time and think this through. Choosing your university can have long-term consequences, it is not something you can do light-heartedly. Do not hurry, thus, and ponder your decisions: passion is fine, but do not lose sight of reality; on the other hand, try not to lie to yourself by opting for a path you do not really like, just because someone else persuaded you to or because it seemed the most strategic move to make. I know a lot of stories of students who had to change faculty after many years, who simply could not pass the exams anymore, who eventually gave up because they could not bear anxiety and stress any longer: in most cases, the root of the problem was that they were not convinced of their choice in the first place. Again, your decision will be pivotal for planning the years ahead, therefore you have to choose wisely: that is the first step to take care of your future self.
Besides, regardless of the specific academic area, I would recommend to take the opportunity to do training activities, work experiences and interships abroad as soon as possible, possibly while still studying. This will be a nice cut above for your résumé – and this is already of great worth – but most of all it will allow you to understand right away how do you like working in that particular sector. Once this point has been definitely clarified, just show your character and have no regrets: enjoying your work sure is a big deal.