This past summer, between my first and second years of the American University Art History Master’s program, I interned at the Bridgeman Art Library in New York City. Founded in London in 1972, the Bridgeman Art Library represents over 8,000 collections from museums and galleries and 29,000 artists providing a vast archive of fine art images for academic and commercial use. Even professors from AU’s faculty have utilized Bridgman’s collection in their own publications. Also, a few years ago Bridgeman launched Bridgeman Education, a subscription service online image database. They have offices in London, Paris, Berlin and New York, (where I worked from mid-May to mid-August). Although the internship didn’t pertain directly to my studies, I am thankful for the exposure to the business side of the art world and for opening my eyes to the many different ways that an art history background can be useful in the professional arena, for example in advertising or publishing.
The New York office has a small team, so I had the opportunity to dip my feet in several different areas, some more related to art history than others. As a business that is ultimately driven by sales, relationships with clients were key. I helped update client information, research profitable sectors, and reach out to potential new clients. One of the most enjoyable as well as beneficial aspects of the job was image research for clients. When clients contact Bridgeman looking for an image they are either looking for a very specific image, like a painting for a scholarly article, or have more general ideas about the kinds of images they would like. In the latter situation, the sales team might call on me to help them gather images that the client might be interested in. For one case, I gathered images of goddesses for a calendar; in another, I put together images related to the presidents and national elections for an educational publication.
Throughout the summer, I worked closely with the Marketing coordinator and helped put together images and content for the monthly newsletters featured on the New York office’s homepage. Typically, the articles/blurbs featured were relevant to current events or new collections represented by Bridgeman, such as the London Olympics or Jamaican Independence.
Although I am happy to be back at school, my time at the Bridgeman Art Library was definitely a welcome change of pace and foray into the working world—especially since I got to spend three months in New York City! I didn’t make it to all the museums I had hoped to (those admissions fees add up) but some highlights included the Costume Institute exhibit Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibit Art of Another Kind: International Abstraction and the Guggenheim, 1949-1960 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Kusama retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Hmm…highlight of the summer? Maybe standing next to Sean Penn at a gallery opening.