Tamsin Golding Yee

By Matthew Moss 3min read

Tamsin Golding Yee studied History of Art at Homerton, and told us about her life at Cambridge and after graduation, as she prepares to return to collect her MA.

Homerton was my first choice of College, and I had already known of it as my mother grew up in Cambridge and had gone to Hills Road Sixth Form College next door. I was attracted by its beautiful grounds and being part of a big community of students. I also had an interest in a particular art history topic that my director of studies to be, Dr Meredith Hale, was researching.

My extracurricular activities as a student were mainly linked to my academic studies. Although the academic curriculum was all about the History of Art, I was interested in practical art as well, both as an artist and as a budding curator. I worked with Homerton Fellow Professor Richard Hickman, using the art studio and materials at the Education Faculty. In my third year - which was the College's 250th anniversary year - I curated a student art exhibition at Homerton, with artwork contributed by students from first-year undergraduates through to postgraduates. I was also keen on life drawing, and in my final year I was Vice-President of the Fitzwilliam Museum Society.  I had a great time organising a 'Love Art After Dark' event with late-night talks and workshops open after opening hours exclusively for students.

Tamsin at an event for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee year at Sotheby's

In the summer after I graduated, I interned at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice - with the help of internship funding from Homerton. I then did a second internship at Sotheby’s in London, in the Modern British Art department. I finished that internship during Covid, which changed a lot of things at the auction house. I was then working from home freelance for a while, before starting a Masters at the Courtauld Institute in September 2020 in Curating the Art Museum.

With my Masters on my CV, I got a job on the graduate scheme at Christie's, but after a year, I was then back at Sotheby’s in my old team working in Modern British Art, specialising now in studio pottery from the 20th to the 21st centuries. I organise six live and online auctions a year and I help make valuation estimates, which often involves visiting clients at their homes, give assessments of insurance value and write condition reports, examining the objects with UV torches and generally gathering as much information as I can on a particular piece to include in the catalogue for the auction. I am responsible for presenting the artworks in galleries before the sale - a great use of the skills from my Masters degree. It’s a very fast paced sort of job which uses the research skills, people skills and technical skills that I gained at university.

On the auction day itself, we would have already made note interested parties and stayed in contact with them to see if they’re interested in bidding.  I have a list of clients that I call at specified times during the auction, and I take instructions and bid on their behalf on the phone.

It can sometimes be hard to stop and look around when you’re a student, but from this perspective, a few years out, I really do appreciate the good times. I do remember a lot of academic stress too - but there were always lots of people to talk to, and lots of layers of support. I think sometimes you don’t realise at the time how valuable that is - and all the effort that’s made on your behalf. But we helped ourselves too:  I remember a group of us organising spontaneous rounders games in the grounds to let off steam!