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Chicago Sotheby’s

Art history and psychology go to Sotheby’s Chicago

Stephanie Loria thought she would major in pre-med and psychology when she came to Augustana from Crystal Lake Central High School as a first-year student in 2007. However, taking a class in art history led to a change of heart and career.

Now, the 2011 grad works as senior administrator at Sotheby’s in Chicago. The international auction house, which buys and sells artwork at 10 different salesrooms globally, has 80 offices in 40 different countries and has specialists in 70 categories of art, jewelry, watches and wine. 

Loria, who later earned an MA in art business from Sotheby’s in London, took that first art history class at Augustana because another choice was full. But it got her started. 

Stephanie Loria ’11

“It was after that class that I decided I was good in art history, and I really liked art history, and was going to switch from taking pre-med,” she said. 

Loria did keep the psychology major, and even won a few academic awards during her time at Augie. She credits the faculty. 

“The faculty was so amazing, and if you were willing to put in the effort they would help you to the ends of the earth to do research and presentations,” she said. 

The psychology background has come in handy, especially at her job in Chicago.  

“It’s not always easy for people to part with their art and valuables,” Loria explained, noting some find their collections evolving as they develop other interests, while others are enhancing their collections. But not always. 

“Sometimes it’s an estate situation where somebody has passed away and the items have to be sold to pay an estate tax,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s part of a trust for a variety of different reasons. Sometimes people just don’t have the money to continue insuring their works of art. 

“You go through all these difficult situations for people who might have to sell—even though they don’t really want to.… having the psychology background to help them through it has proven very helpful.”

Loria’s role also involves a lot of customer service with people who may not necessarily be used to the art world they suddenly find themselves in. 

To “know a little about everything,” think fast, ask good questions and keep learning—these are abilities Loria shares with other Augustana graduates.

“If I find a client that has a painting by a British artist, I explain the terms, get them an estimate, answer any questions that they have along the way, arrange for the shipping to get the painting from Chicago to London,” she said. “I watch the sales. I report back on what the sale prices are, I answer any questions about what does the commission mean, what will I be getting back. I just kind of handhold throughout the whole process because it’s not exactly intuitive and most people who go to auctions haven’t necessarily done it before.”

She finds her work with Sotheby’s interesting and challenging. 

“I have to know a little bit about everything and that can be really tricky,” she said. “For example, I manage the inquiry mailbox for Sotheby’s in Chicago. So I get people sending me pictures of heirloom jewelry, old bottles of wine, of paintings they found in the attic, of books they found behind another book on the shelf.

“I have to sort of know right off the bat if it’s something that could potentially be for Sotheby’s. That’s a huge knowledge base that I think I will work my entire life trying to continue to broaden, so I know what questions to ask.”

To “know a little about everything,” think fast, ask good questions and keep learning—these are abilities Loria shares with other Augustana graduates. An Augustana liberal arts education builds these skills in all students, no matter what major(s) they choose. 

It’s been quite a journey, so far, for Loria. But from pre-med to art history, from Augustana to London to Chicago, “it’s a lot of fun, for sure,” she said. And that’s something else to expect from an Augustana education—an appreciation for serious fun. 

Favorite professors: Dr. Fenwick in psychology, Dr. Catherine Goebel and Dr. Margaret Morse in art history

Favorite spot on campus: Brew by the Slough

Favorite spot off campus: Arthur’s Garden Deli in Rock Island 

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