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June 7, 2011 3:27 pm

Ten Questions - Emmanuelle Vidal-Delagneau

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Emmanuelle Vidal-Delagneau: “I have always dreamt of setting up my own business”

Emmanuelle Vidal-Delagneau is a qualified art auctioneer. Her career in the art world includes a 13-year tenure at Christie’s, the international auction house where she co-ordinated some of the company’s most successful international sales, including Nathaniel and Albert von Rothschild (London, July 1999), which exceeded $90m. She has also participated in a number of high-profile auctions, including the sale of the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge collection at the Grand Palais in Paris, in 2009.

Ms Vidal-Delagneau has a degree in art history and archeology from Lyon University and a masters in management from EM Lyon business school in France. She has also been appointed a member of the Conseil des Ventes, the French auction market authority.

Ms Vidal-Delagneau is now launching her own company - Adeona - which will be dedicated to cultural assets and art management.

1. How did you decide on your current career path?

I was eight years old when I attended an auction for the first time. I remember I watched the auctioneer and thought he had the most fantastic job. When I told my parents, they frowned and told me to focus on completing “a more serious degree”. This is why I ended up at EM Lyon. I loved my time there and decided to spend the first two years discovering as many different industries and businesses as possible, interning at Procter & Gamble, for example and travelling throughout Australia to sell French luxury products. At the same time, I was also completing a degree in art history, which is when it became obvious that I deeply longed to have a career in a cultural and artistic environment.

2. What is the best advice given to you by a teacher?

Good business is good ethics and good ethics is good business.

3. What would you do if you were dean of a business school for the day?

Very selfishly, I would spend all my time talking to as many students as possible. They will be the leaders of the future, so understanding their wishes, hopes, ambitions and fears would be like looking into a crystal ball to figure out what our world will be like a few years time.

4. What is your biggest lesson learnt?

The recent and unexpected death of my parents was by any standards the biggest lesson I ever learnt. Whatever one does, one’s world can dramatically change from one day to the other. Therefore one should never forget to put first things first. I am grateful that, despite focusing on my career for the last 20 years, the little voice inside me kept reminding me of this and despite the mourning, I feel at peace with myself, having taken care of my parents until the last moment.

5. What is the worst job you have ever had?

I cannot even think of a specific one. I have learnt something positive from every job I have done, be it the least interesting, the most physically exhausting, the one with the most horrible manager, or the one I was never paid for. What does not kill you makes you stronger, so one should welcome difficult experiences as a means to learn and develop oneself.

6. What advice would you give to women in business?

I would say that despite the existence of the “glass ceiling”, which sadly is a reality, a woman should never forget the man who promoted her and be grateful to the male client who put in a good word to her boss.

7. What is the last book you read?

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. It is the story of success: how success is not only about hard work but also a great deal of luck. Malcolm Gladwell and also Alain de Botton, are two contemporary authors that I make sure I read.

8. Where would be your favourite place to study?

My ideal way of studying would be to do a Grand Tour, the traditional travel of Europe undertaken by upper-class young men of means between the 17th and the 19th century. In my case, I would expand the exploration to the entire planet.

9. How do you deal with pressure?

I think about Neil Armstrong landing on the moon; an extraordinary lesson of self-control and I try to mirror his coolness as much as I can.

10. What is your plan B?

I am turning to my plan B now! Plan A, for the last 20 years, was to learn the ropes of the international art market and develop my auctioneering skills. But I have also always dreamt of setting up my own business. In an international auction house, there is pressure to fill in auctions with as many valuable works of art as possible, and most of the business is public and short-term oriented. The purpose of my cultural assets and art management company, is to focus on discretion and long-term planning. Should art assets be kept or sold? This is the kind of question, among many others, that my company will be dedicated to answering.

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

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