Museums / Galleries / Auction Houses

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 course will survey museums, commercial art galleries, and auction houses and gain a comprehensive understanding of the connection between art and the venues where it is exhibited and sold. Students will visit many of the key 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. This course is led by three instructors who are experts in the fields of museums, galleries, and auction houses who bring their professional experience. Students will complete three projects throughout the two weeks that allow them to explore potential careers in each of these contexts.


Site Visits

Visits will include a combination of trips to major New York City art museums 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
  • Phillips auction house
  • Top galleries, such as David Zwirner, Gagosian, and 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 both the local and global art world stage.


In the past, guest speakers have included:

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


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 1 July 7 to July 19

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

View Summer Schedule

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. Students will engage in current debates surrounding repatriation, representation in collections, and institutional responsibility to local communities. At the end of the module, students will curate their own museum exhibition to showcase what they have learned.

  • 2

    Galleries: There are hundreds of galleries throughout the City’s neighborhoods and boroughs, such as Chelsea, Tribeca, Midtown, Brooklyn, and 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 function for artists, the public, and for collectors. Students will have the opportunity to create their own gallery business plan, balancing a curatorial eye with the practical needs of the business.

  • 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 a public sale. The course will also examine a myriad of digital innovations made by auction houses since 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. Students will have the exciting opportunity to participate in a mock art auction, led by a real auctioneer, and practice balancing client wishes with the excitement of the salesroom.

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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