Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Kassidy Greiner is a former professional ballet dancer. She is currently Post-Sale Coordinator at Christie’s New York and was a member of the third MMIAM cohort.
So, tell me about yourself and how you became interested in the arts?
I grew up dancing; I did five seasons as a professional ballet dancer. I always thought I would stay in the ballet world, but it was through the MMIAM program that I pivoted and now work in visual arts, in the contemporary art market specifically.
When I think about it, there were very specific moments in the program that influenced my decision. So, as silly as it may sound, the very first assigned reading Seven Days in the Art World, was probably my favorite reading of the whole program. There were elements in the book that I’d had exposure to in the past, like museum-going, but it introduced me to collecting and sales at a level I hadn’t heard about before. Then, when we toured the Rachofsky Collection in Dallas, I was able to see collecting as an encompassing and intellectually-rich pursuit, not just “materialistic.” I really started to learn about the role of the collector in the art world. Finally, going to Art Basel. We did that apart from the program, but I would probably never have gone if it weren’t for the MMIAM program creating this opportunity to spend months studying and traveling in Europe.
Returning to work in the ballet world felt very natural for me; and I did apply to a few ballet companies after we graduated, in particular for fundraising and special events roles. The process of finding a job can be really tough, so I tried to cast a fairly wide net and create opportunities for myself. Instead of working for a ballet company however, I got a job as the studio manager for a contemporary artist. I actually then got to go to Art Basel Miami six months later, and see what that was like from a sales side. So, it had all come full circle.
Tell me about what you’re up to now.
In April, I switched jobs again and started at Christie’s. Since the pandemic, all of our sales were 100% remote (either online E-bay style or online live-stream broadcast) until late fall when we held our Christie’s 20/21 Century Evening Sales. Still Christie’s really adapted as far as ways of working and I’m still largely working from home now. A fun shoutout – One of our big marquee week sales was the Cox Collection (Cox like at SMU Cox School of Business!). The whole family flew in from Dallas to attend. It was extremely successful, 100% of the works were sold through, which is fantastic.
Anyway, I work in the post-sale department, across many sale categories. For example I’ve worked on a Latin American Art sale and the Post-War to Present sale. My role comes in once an auction is concluded; I work on everything from compliance and sales tax, to invoicing, payments and logistics. It’s a very structured, operational role. People assume that working in the arts means being very free-spirited and loose and that’s not it at all. There are strict regulations, there are audits. I spend a lot of time in Excel!
Working at Christie’s is totally different than anything I’ve ever done in the past. From ballet companies to the artist’s studio, and, for a time when I worked for a small arts consulting firm, I’ve been in a small company / family business environment; 30 employees or less. You have to wear many hats and you get a lot of opportunities to do things you may not have done before. Christie’s, however, is extremely large—there are over 2,000 employees—and corporately structured. I’m here in our New York City office, at Rockefeller Center, but the headquarters is in London.
Is this something you’re enjoying?
Yes, I’m enjoying the work and the exposure to this caliber of art. I love working with Christie’s clients, they are amazing collectors and people. But it has been tough switching to this corporate environment. On top of that, between the pandemic and moving to New York City, it was hard to find a job when you haven’t already built a network. I am a bit nomadic though I guess, every time that I have transitioned to a new job, it was geographically-inspired. I’ve never gone from one company to another in the same city. It’ll be interesting to see if things get easier next time.
New York City seems like a place with a lot of opportunities, especially in our field.
So, this might come as a surprise, but I actually took a pay cut to come here. There are so many qualified people and it’s extremely competitive; it seems like everybody has a master’s degree. So as far as salaries go, they don’t need to pay so highly because there are so many qualified and interesting people excited to just be there. Salaries here can be very disproportionate to the amount of education and experience a candidate might have. It’s definitely something to consider, if you’re considering moving to New York City. But in spite of all this, I’m very proud to work at Christie’s.
Can you tell me how you use the skills we acquired in the program?
I think that having the degree got me each of my jobs. It wasn’t that someone affiliated with the program handed me a job, but more so having the program on my CV set me apart and even was a conversation starter. I really appreciated all the business courses we had. I work daily with our accounting department for example, and it’s been helpful to understand what they’re doing. I do wish we had had more logistical/operational courses though, because that’s a huge part of what makes the art world go round.
I’m also very interested in the hiring process and how we can best prepare for entering the job market. For Christie’s, I did a recorded interview before an in-person interview. They give you question prompts on a screen and then you record yourself answering on the spot. Lots of companies do this; I think I did three or four when I was applying for jobs in New York. This kind of training would have been easy to do; setting up mock interviews. I didn’t think anything of it, but my now-manager mentioned that I was the only person who interviewed that realized there was an actual person watching on the other side. I said simple things like ‘I’m excited to introduce myself’ and ‘thank you so much for your time.’
I would have loved for the program to offer more tailored coaching around finding a job, connecting to the advisory council, talking about negotiating, and salaries. I’m very open about that in particular. I try to advocate for transparency and progress on this front whenever I have an opportunity. So many people in the first years of their careers just accept what they’re offered. Having switched jobs a few times, each time I’ve become more confident in myself and my value, but it can be scary.
What was your favorite experience in the program?
Going through the program with our small, 10-person cohort, and the experiences we shared, whether organized officially by the program or not, was my favorite part. Each of us is so different; geographically, in terms of age, specializations, everything, but we had such genuine and wonderful experiences together. I have many special memories, from two-Stepping in Dallas to walking on Christo’s Floating Piers in Italy. We were so open to whatever came our way.
Even when it was hard! That one week when we were finishing finals from HEC, returning from Bogotá and transferring to Milan. Wow. That was…a week. But looking back on it now, I see it as such a source of strength.
*Kassidy Greiner’s headshot credit: Josh Campbell.