Museums / Galleries / Auction Houses

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Explore the three major pillars of the art world—museums, galleries, and auction houses—and get an insider’s look at how each influences the dynamic global art scene.


Students enrolled in this Exploration course will survey museums, galleries, and auction houses and gain a new understanding of the connection between art and the venues where it is sold. In this course, students will visit many of the magnificent art establishments of New York City, one of the world’s most dynamic cultural epicenters, offering endless opportunities for students to discuss, critique, and observe how art lives in its most important institutions. This course will also explore how these three businesses are evolving and using new technology to meet the demands of an increasingly virtual world.


Designed and led by industry experts, our Exploration courses focus on the intersectionality between topics. This dynamic learning experience balances lectures, site visits, and world-class guest speakers to engage students in an exploration of their interests and foster their curiosity around a diverse selection of material. Our multidisciplinary and hands-on approach to learning encourages students to sample different fields and employ critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills.


Site Visits

Visits will include a combination of trips to major New York City art museums and architectural monuments, as well as galleries and auction houses.


In the past, site visits have included:

  • Sotheby’s auction house
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Museum of Modern Art
  • The Frick Collection
  • Swann Auction Galleries
  • Top galleries, such as David Zwirner, Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth


Guest Speakers

Students will hear firsthand from museum curators, auction house specialists, and gallerists about the topics that shape our understanding of how museums, auction houses, and galleries operate on the both the local and global art world stage.


In the past, guest speakers have included:

  • Museum curators
  • Museum registrars
  • Art dealers
  • Gallerists
  • Auction house specialists
  • Art lawyers
  • Artists


Materials Fee: $245

Health Fee: $100


Please note: This information is subject to change at any time at the discretion of Sotheby’s Institute of Art.

Term Dates

Term dates and course availability depend heavily on instructors’ schedules.

  • Term 2 July 2 to July 14

All courses are open to rising 10th – 12th graders and graduating seniors. Explore the full summer schedule.

View Summer Schedule

What is an Exploration?

Explorations are designed to introduce students to three distinct topics in a two-week Institute term. This survey approach to learning enables students to make cross-disciplinary connections and informed decisions about their academic and career choices.

Course Highlights

Summer Institute enables students to dive deep into a course of study, sharpening skills for their academic and professional careers. Each course is carefully designed to suit student interests and encourage intellectual curiosity.

  • 1

    Museums: New York City is home to over 75 art museums with diverse missions and of various sizes. Supported by individuals, public funds and/or corporate donors, museums often have education as the common thread in their missions to make their collections accessible to everyone. By visiting and studying a range of museums, students will learn techniques and tips for approaching art while also looking at the various staff roles that enable a museum to fulfill its mission: from the curators who conceptualize and develop the shows to the registrars who source and secure the art; from the development team who ensures the museums’ funding to the docents who volunteer their time to educate the public.

  • 2

    Galleries: There are hundreds of galleries throughout the City’s neighborhoods and boroughs, such as Chelsea, Tribeca, Midtown, Brooklyn, the Upper and Lower East Sides. These galleries vary as much in size as they do in the artists they represent, their focus, clientele, and more. In visiting these venues, students will learn about the commercial aspects of evaluating art and will hear firsthand from dealers, art advisors, and marketing staff about how galleries work for artists, the public, and for collectors. Students will also learn about the relationship between the gallery’s neighborhood with its artists, programming, and overall identity.

  • 3

    Auction Houses: Experiencing art being sold at auction can feel like a sporting event in terms of pace and energy. The auction is exciting for both the spectator and the collector, but auction houses are much more than the thrill of live auctions. Students will visit auction houses small and large, looking specifically at how art moves through them, beginning with how works arrive and ending with how works exit through the public sale. The course will also examine recent digital innovations made by auction houses during the pandemic. Auctioneers, lawyers, and other specialists who operate either behind the scenes or before the public will guide students through the complexity of the New York City auction house.

Summer Institute Faculty

Our instructors are award-winning Sotheby's Institute faculty, recognized thought leaders and professional experts in the art world. Each faculty member structures their course around real-time conversations defining their professions and helps students master the unique forces at play in the art world.

Summer Institute Faculty

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