Cocktails With... Rachael White Young

Style Observer

Cocktails With... Rachael White Young

Specialist in Post-War & Contemporary Art at Christie's New York; Auctioneer at the Sugar Cane Ball

Sunday, February 23, 2020

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How did you become an auctioneer and land the job at Christie's?

I actually started my art career right out of university at an auction house in Madrid, Spain. It became immediately clear to me that I had found my calling: a fast-paced environment with interesting clientele that shared a common passion: art. After completing my master's at the Sotheby's Institute in London, I joined Christie's in New York — and the rest is history.

Auctioneering came about in an equally organic way. In my job, I spend so much time in the auction room that the style and cadence of auctioneering quickly became like a second language. Adding the charitable component — I only auctioneer at fund-raisers, and the like — was a no-brainer. It's a way for me to donate my time and services to important causes, and I derive a tremendous amount of happiness from that.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Be a “yes” person. The more you do, the more people you meet, the more you put yourself out there — the more you learn. About the world, and about yourself.

Also, don't be afraid of failure. Every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow.

What's the one auctioneering tip you got that you've never forgotten?

As the auctioneer, you must be in total control of the audience. The idea of standing up in front of hundreds of people (and asking them for money, no less!) can be daunting, but if you embrace that mindset of total control, it is entirely empowering. And I assure you, it leads to much greater success! It's a tip that extends into daily life, too.

What would be your tip to someone attending an auction for the very first time and eager to bid?

Do your research! Talk to the organisers or auction committee, find out about the lots that interest you — and if you really want to go the extra mile, chat with the auctioneer beforehand. If they know you're interested in bidding, they'll keep an eye on you. It's important to get your bid in before anyone else can!

What has been your most humbling experience, careerwise?

My job is constantly humbling. There are daily challenges, and oftentimes failures — but they make me stronger, and they make the successes all the sweeter.

What lesson has been the hardest to learn?

Lately, it's been that life is non-linear. There is no incremental ladder of success — it is a jungle-gym of ups and downs and lateral deviations. I try to remind myself of that and have faith that all the hard work I put in will ultimately yield success.

What talent do you yearn for?

I envy those who seem to function on little to no sleep. If I don't get nine hours a night, I am exhausted! I can only imagine how productive I would be with an extra two to three hours of daytime — it just means I have to be extra-efficient with the 15 hours of the day I have!

What have you never understood?

The aforementioned non-sleepers.

How would you define success?

Personal achievement. And by that, I mean achievement that feels personal to you. Everyone has their unique strengths and weaknesses, and everyone takes a different path through life. I will never compare myself to others — my success is my own.

In your business is it more important to be liked or respected?

Tough question… can I say both? In my industry, access to information is key, and clients are much more likely to share that if they like you. On the flip side, clients want to work with someone they respect — someone who has expertise, someone they know they can trust. To get far, I believe you need both.

Where's your happy place?

The couch, sitting next to my husband, watching a terrible action movie. It's our favourite way to unwind after a crazy week.

Runner-up would be the Duke's Hotel Bar in London. They're known for their martinis, but I think they make the best Old Fashioned in the world.

Nature or nurture?

Nurture. I'm all about self-love. I start every weekend with yoga, meditation and a huge green juice. It fuels me.

What is your greatest fear?

Loss. I've been blessed with so many loved ones, I can't bear to imagine life without one of them.

What foods sum you up?

Green juice every morning, an occasional spaghetti alle vongole (ideally from Carbone in New York) and caviar for special occasions. With Champagne, of course.

Heels or flats?

Heels! Always! I'm 5'9” and still crave some height.

Jeans or an LBD?

I'll go with Option C: a floral dress. Something equally feminine and functional. I live in them these days.

Ballet recital or opera?

Of course, a museum would be my top choice — the Menil Collection in Houston is one of my favourites — but I'm also a big fan of ballet. The dancers are, in and of themselves, works of art.

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