“I was always addicted to art history,” says Brooke Lampley, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s, within minutes of our introduction. By the end of our conversation, a good hour later, you realize that’s an understatement. The daughter of painter Joanne Lampley Metcalf and sportscaster Jim Lampley, she set her sights on an art career at an early age and never really looked back. For instance: Unsatisfied with the art history courses available to her in high school, Lampley convinced a teacher to also educate her, independently, on the finer points of color theory and headed off to an NYU summer program in Florence to further her studies.
She’s long been keen on the modern period of art, too, even when everybody else was clamoring over the contemporary era. “I was the only person in the world who didn’t want to do contemporary art!” says Lampley. “Everyone thought it was really quaint and conservative to want to learn about Picasso. But for me, modernism was my ideal.” Even at Harvard, she tried to talk her way out of taking the art survey course. “I was self-selecting in my art historical interests,” she admits. “I wasn’t interested in studying the other periods.”
Does her cut-to-the-chase attitude extend to her wardrobe? You bet. Ask Lampley to describe her personal style and the first word to fly out is efficient. Yes, efficient — not exactly your run-of-the-mill fashion adjective. “My outfits tend to have very few components,” she says. “I like to get up and out the door quickly.” Talk about a girl who knows what she wants. And that’s where Vince comes in. “I just love everything here. I need it all,” Lampley gushed at her fitting at Vince.
Here, as she preps for a major auction in November (check out the artwork here for a sneak peek), Lampley talks Christie’s and Vince. Be sure to stop by Saks’ new Vince boutique in New York!
This encapsulates what my daily look is—simple and professional with a personalized twist. A fur vest is a great addition that you can mix into other things in your wardrobe.
Hanging, Pablo Picasso Femme au chien, 1962 (Estimate: $5,000,000-7,000,000, at Christie’s New York Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, November 2012)
This is fantastic—luxurious and simple. Dresses are a major part of my wardrobe because you can just put it on and go.
This is definitely a weekend and evening outfit. You can see there’s a leather story going on. I think it’s a nice way to add richness to an outfit without having to change the color so much.
Painting by Juan Gris, Citron et raisin, 1925 (Estimate: $300,000-500,000).
On her painter mom
She was a huge influence — always went to museums and took me as a child. I grew up with art books all over the house. My mother also shamelessly copied paintings that she loved, just for decoration. We couldn’t ever hope to own a Matisse, but she could paint it and we could hang it.
On life at Christie’s
People don’t realize that we do everything from start to finish, from the creative to the business. We price the works, put the financial package together, do the entire catalogue, lay out the exhibition…. I personally move each painting into the spot I think will showcase it the best.
On knowing when a work is authentic
You know the opening passage in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink? It really rings true. In a sense, the longer I spend doing this, the harder it is to explain to people why I know their work is fake. It becomes much more intuitive.
On the move from museums to auctions
I had worked in a few museums — the Fogg at Harvard, the Smithsonian’s Hirschhorn Museum and the National Gallery of Art — but I struggled with the slow pace and lack of a deadline. I love to be busy; I’m a masochist in that way. I wanted something with a little more electricity. Also, at an auction house, you get a macrocosmic perspective on the market.
On the interaction of fashion and art
Both express trends in our culture. There’s no denying a nexus. We spend an amazing amount of time factoring in aesthetic details into the economics of what we do — for example, whether a red Warhol is more valuable than a green Warhol. Those things matter in dollars in our marketplace. Even the fact that China has become a powerful player in the luxury world—that’s important for art and drives developments in our fields.
I like that the clothes are simple, understated basics you can integrate with a lot of other things. They’re super-functional.