Career Advice by Caroline Lang, Chairman of Sotheby's Switzerland

Updated: Jan 31, 2019

Caroline Lang is Chairman of Sotheby’s Switzerland and Deputy Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe. She is internationally recognized for her in-depth knowledge of the art market and her longstanding expertise in Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art. Caroline is one of the first and best-known female auctioneers in the art world.

4+1 Questions for Caroline Lang - focusing on career advice:

Denise: How did your childhood influence your career?

Caroline: I grew up in Basel and I had the pleasure of being exposed to art from a very young age. My godfather, Richard Dreyfus, son of Baron Robert von Hirsch, both world-famous collectors and patrons of the art in their own right, made me discover art from early childhood when visiting their homes filled from top to bottom with an array of fascinating paintings and artwork – covering every wall. As I grew older, I was much more excited about spending time in the city’s Kunstmuseum and at ART Basel than I was interested in the Humanistisches Gymnasium!

Denise: Do women succeed in life better because of women to women relationships- what’s the secret to success as a woman in the corporate world?

Caroline: I think that women’s success is driven by two things: their resilience and the fact that they are adaptable in situations where they are challenged. In my experience, women are better able to wait, assess and react in more varied ways, and generally we are less predictable.

In my generation we had a choice between career or staying at home with children, and given this, there was a natural selection of having fewer women in the career track. Today’s awareness has paved the way for the present generation, and the question of being taken less seriously is being taken care of.

Denise: You are an out of the box thinker, you seize opportunities - what advice would you give when a career is stuck?

Caroline: My advice would be the same for someone’s career as it would be for life in general: go with the flow, surf the wave. If you are stuck, it’s because you are going in the wrong direction, so rethink your options, be open to trying something new and focus on your goal. If one door is closed, there will be another one that is open.

Denise: How do you deal with difficulties and bad decisions in projects - how do you motivate yourself?

Caroline: When things go wrong, it can be in two ways. The first is for reasons outside your control, and there you must accept, let go, learn the lesson and look for other opportunities.

In the second scenario, where you have contributed to the problem itself, have patience and don’t beat yourself up. Don’t be pressed for time, stop and think. Speak to trusted people and colleagues, and if you need help, ask for it. Try to find a different angle and never be afraid of taking your responsibility to find the best solution.

Denise: Today the world is a global platform- how do you find new talents - what are the upcoming top 3 female artists with Jeff Koons potential

Caroline: A key thing about Jeff Koons is that his quest for technical perfection means that his art is very much part of an industry in terms of its execution. I don’t know any women artists who this approach would appeal to. Living artists who, in my opinion, demand attention are Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Jenny Saville and Yayoi Kusama; but there will be many more very soon.

Thank you Caroline for contributing your thoughts to this hot topic!

Celebrating its 275th anniversary in 2019, Sotheby’s holds auctions in 10 different salesrooms, including New York, London, Hong Kong, Geneva and Zurich.

Great opportunities for art-lovers to begin or expand their collection are online-only sales:

Discover upcoming online auctions and learn more about the different art categories!

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