Summer Course Provides an Immersive Exploration of the Value of Art

Stephanie Manning, Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants

Stephanie Manning is pursuing a master’s degree in Digital Art History in preparation for a career as a specialized art consultant or investment analyst. A summer course at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London helped deepen her understanding of the art market industry, including the financial aspects involved in valuing and appraising art.

She was among 18 Duke University students who received Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants (GSTEG) in 2017-18 from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies for training beyond their core disciplines. Her faculty mentor is Sheila Dillon. She shared an update:

I had an excellent experience at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. My knowledge of the art market and the financial process of appraising art was greatly enhanced from this summer course. In addition to the lectures, I was able to participate in the Old Masterpiece auction, attend several gallery visits to speak with curators and artists, and view a private art auction.

My study of art history and art markets was greatly enhanced by spending my summer at Sotheby’s. I was able to broaden my art historical knowledge of the current art market as well as to learn the financial side of valuations. I met several new colleagues who work in the art industry, and I gained a valuable insight to the art world that I could bring back to Duke to enhance my studies.

I was most interested in learning the degree to which the financial value of art was connected to the cultural, intrinsic value. Appraising art is an art in itself; valuing art depends on both the viewers’ emotions and their knowledge of the value of similar art types. This experience has forever changed the way I view art. I have always considered the intrinsic value when viewing art, and now I push deeper into my thoughts on the financial value of the work to consider how much others would be willing to pay for it, and the value I place on the emotional response I gather from the work.

Through this experience, I was able to better understand the valuation and appraisal of art and the cultural heritage of Sotheby’s art auctions. Being able to personally interact with gallery curators and to visit some of the most prestigious and historic museums in London (such as the Victoria and Albert Museum) allowed me to experience how art professionals interact with the art they showcase and preserve, and how intertwined and complex the cultural and financial values are in the art of appraisal.


This internal funding mechanism from the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies encourages doctoral and master’s students to step away from their core research and training to acquire skills, knowledge, or co-curricular experiences that will give them new perspectives on their research agendas. Graduate Student Training Enhancement Grants are intended to deepen preparation for academic positions and other career trajectories.

Image: Stephanie Manning in London