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MAY/JUNE 2011

Columbia Alumni Association & President Emeritus Michael Sovern Host Event at Sotheby’s
By Susan Aurelia Gitelson, Ph.D.

The Columbia Alumni Association (CAA) arranged an evening champagne reception at Sotheby’s in New York on March 7 for Columbia alumni to view the auction house’s March Contemporary Art sale. The linchpin for the event was Columbia President Emeritus Michael Sovern, who has been Chairman of the Sotheby’s Board of Directors for the past 11 years. In his welcoming remarks, President Sovern noted that Sotheby’s was founded in 1744 in England, just 10 years before King’s College was established in New York. King’s College later evolved to become Columbia College and then Columbia University. He said one of the perks of his position is that he sometimes finds hanging in his office a Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso or some other extraordinary painting, which the staff has hung there to show to major potential clients.

When I later asked President Sovern privately how accessible Sotheby’s is to people interested in art who may be unable to afford to buy their favorite pictures, he told me people can come in any time. They don’t have to buy.

On the other hand, Jennifer Roth, a Columbia alumna who is now senior vice president at Sotheby’s and head of the Department of Fine Arts, emphasized in her remarks to the 200 or so people assembled for the evening, that they were concentrating on the middle market at this event, which could provide possibilities for alumni who are not yet major collectors to purchase artworks at auction. The contemporary art they were offering for their March sale included Pop Art, Conceptualism, Minimalism, etc. by such artists as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Alexander Calder.

The CAA was founded five years ago as "a global network connecting Columbians of all schools to one another and to the University. It links almost 300,000 alumni through more than 80 regional clubs and affinity groups, online resources, and over 200 events and programs around the world," according to its statement of purpose. Among the services offered are career networking, online alumni directory, cutting-edge research news, talks with top faculty and deans and much more. In addition, the Columbia Alumni Arts League (CAAL) was established in 2006 "to extend the Arts Initiative’s commitment to making the arts a part of every Columbian’s life. 5,000 alumni from schools across the university currently enjoy CAAL benefits." CAAL offers free and discounted tickets to arts events all around New York In addition, members can enjoy special benefits at over 65 arts organizations.#

 Susan A. Gitelson, Ph.D. is President of International Consultants, Inc. She has been Co-Chair of the Dean’s Council of the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), supported the Columbia SIPA Gitelson Policy Forum, the Gitelson Peace Publications of the Truman Institute, and published books and articles on four continents. Columbia University awarded her its Medal for Conspicuous Alumni Service. Dr. Gitelson received her B.A. from Barnard College and her M.I.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University.

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