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Interview with Elaine Kwok

Today’s interview is with Elaine Kwok – Christie’s auctioneer and director of Education in Asia. I loved having Elaine as an interview subject, and learning more about her fascinating career. Her insights into the world of art, auctioneering, and of course handbags, were so interesting for me, and I could have asked her endless questions! Enjoy meeting Elaine!

Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

My name is Elaine Kwok, and I am an art lover, auctioneer, and mother of two.  I grew up in Hong Kong, and studying and working in the US and Europe for over a decade, I am now back in Hong Kong.  Since 2007, I have been working at Christie’s, where I now hold the role of Director of Christie’s Education in Asia.  I run art-related programs for clients, art enthusiasts, and people who are interested in working in the industry.  During our sales, I am also an auctioneer, selling on the rostrum in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

Elaine moderating a panel discussion in Chanel

Elaine moderating a panel discussion in Chanel

How did you get to where you are in your career? What path did you take here?

From my university days, I knew that I loved art and culture, and contemplated a career in this direction.  Along the way, I tried more sensible jobs, spending a year in an investment bank and two in business school. Ultimately, passion took over and I ended up at Christie’s, initially in London as a business manager.  After relocating to Hong Kong, I worked in the Asia President’s office on special projects, one of which was to start Christie’s Education programs in Asia.  While one could get a Masters or take short courses at Christie’s Education in London and New York, we did not have a consistent presence in Hong Kong back then.  The course we ran in 2010 was a great success, and we saw that there is a lot of interest in this region for specialist art-related programming.  So I now run Christie’s Education in Asia full time, helping new clients in the region to navigate the international art world, as well as providing people who are contemplating arts careers behind-the-scenes views into the industry.

Let’s talk about handbag auctions. This is a newer market for established auction houses like Christies…  Could you tell us a bit more about your handbag sales?  Do you think we’ll ever see handbags reach the type of prices that say, watches can go for? Or is there a limit?

When Christie’s decided to launch handbag sales in Hong Kong, I was thrilled!  Just think, what was once a guilty pleasure is now…. work!  One of the best parts of my jobs must be sitting next to the handbags warehouse, and whenever I need a break, I would peek in to see what new goodies we have consigned.  Having an office right next to the world’s top handbag expert is another perk – whenever I have questions on pricing, restoration, etc – he always has the best advice. Continue Reading