Alumna Profile: Jessica Sandwell

Jessica Sandwell graduated from her Contemporary Fine Art degree at the University of Portsmouth‘s Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries in 2016. 

Since graduating Jessica has been working as an Intern for Sotheby’s in the Picture Library, who also look after The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive. Her role involves the preservation of the archive through digitizing the negatives the company has, as well as the initial stages of exhibition planning and the sale of Cecil Beaton prints.

She says that after taking part in exhibitions in her third year at university she found the processes at the company easier to pick up – and describes her final year of study as a highlight where her experiences helped her to decide what path she wanted to take.

“I learnt a lot about myself and where I might fit into the industry,” she says. “We put on several exhibitions and I began to see that my strengths may lie in the arts management side of the art world”.

Jessica says that it was the broad style of the Contemporary Fine Art degree that appealed to her initially, giving her the opportunity to explore ideas and develop herself as an artist. As well as keeping in contact with some of her fellow graduates, Jessica has kept in contact with one of her lecturers from the university, Dr. Marius Kwint. Marius was Jessica’s dissertation supervisor and also helped her with post-graduate applications as well as her current job application.

“I’ve been very lucky to have such an experienced person on my side to help and support me even though I’m no longer a student,” she says.

“It’s not been all plain sailing,” Jessica explains. “I started applying for junior level jobs and internships last September; I heard back or got rejected from everything until Sotheby’s called me for an interview in March. In that seven months, I think I got rejected from 50 positions, at least.

And after my interview with Sotheby’s, I waited a further three months to hear from them, only to get rejected again, and a week later get offered an internship with another department.”

Sotheby’s provides a platform for its staff to exhibit and raise money for charity once a year – this year’s charity is ‘The Cure Parkinson’s Trust’. Proceeds from the bar and merchandise – plus 15% of any artwork sold at the exhibition – will be donated.

July 18th saw the opening of ‘Out of Office’ to the public for 10 days. Although she joined Sothebys after the deadline for artists, the company have been more than willing to let Jessica get involved.

See some of Jessica’s work at the ‘Out of Office’ show at Sotheby’s, open 18-28 July:

Jessica is looking into studying for a Master’s Degree, with the aim to do a PhD or DPhil, although she revealed that interns often have the opportunity to work in different departments at Sotheby’s which may present her with more options to consider.




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