An Incubator for Student Businesses Born at Sotheby’s Institute of Art
Now more than ever, art business has shifted from a landscape built on a legacy to one accelerated by cutting-edge technology and next-gen business practices. Sotheby’s auction house has emerged from its long-standing status as the world’s largest and oldest art business to also be a leader in digital advancement. In recent years Sotheby’s Institute has correspondingly introduced new areas of academic inquiry, from a program in Art Logistics to electives in technology and online courses on blockchain and NFTs.
Each year, Sotheby’s Institute asks incoming graduate students what sector they intend to pursue after their studies and there are been a growing interest in entrepreneurship; over 40% of the most recent class self-identified as future entrepreneurs. It was to support these up-and-coming disruptors, innovators, and change-makers of the art world that Sotheby’s Institute established the Enterprise Studio in 2022 – the graduate student center for art and entrepreneurship.
Over 40% of the most recent class self-identified as future entrepreneurs.
The Enterprise Studio is both a global idea and a physical space in New York and London. All students in the Sotheby’s Institute Master’s Programs are able to attend workshops and networking events in both locations and online that address design-thinking, venture funding, and other start-up concepts. These Enterprise Studio activities are crafted in parallel with the business training that all students receive as part of the MA curricula, allowing students to complement their academic studies with additional entrepreneurial insight and skills.
Students who intend to launch a business shortly after their studies are invited to participate in The Gavel, an annual start-up pitch competition that is the culmination of the Enterprise Studio. The students accepted each year bring innovative and market-focused business ideas and are supported as they develop their idea, with close access to mentors who advise them as they shape their plans from ideation to execution.
The chosen finalists were judged on a combination of factors including feasibility of the idea, whether the student’s specific strengths and passion support their chosen project, and how they had performed during the program overall. The winner of the Gavel Prize receives:
- Capital of up to £30,000/$40,000
- Start-up space in New York or London
- Dedicated mentor for the first year of the business process
- Industry and investment introductions tailored to the winner’s business proposal
Past winners have included an environmentally friendly art packaging company called Spongy Bags, which was included in the recommendations of the Gallery Climate Coalition, and a sales platform called SideArt, which targets overlooked galleries, focusing on a more local-oriented mindset.
Each Gavel Prize winner exhibits a strong combination of passion, commitment, innovative spirit, and a desire to drive a positive change in the art world. And the Enterprise Studio gives them the tools they need to set a strong foundation for their business.