A conversation with Lydia Fenet: Pioneer in the auction industry

Portrait of Lydia Fenet © Lydia Fenet

Artsper is ecstatic to introduce our audience to Lydia Fenet, CEO of the Lydia Fenet Agency. Lydia has revolutionized the world of charity auctions, raising over a billion dollars for 800 organizations and shattering barriers for women in the industry. Formerly the Global Managing Director of Strategic Partnerships at Christie's, she has shared the stage with iconic figures such as Elton John and Bruce Springsteen. An acclaimed author and podcast host, her books "The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You" and "Claim Your Confidence" have captivated audiences worldwide. Keep reading to learn more about Lydia's journey in the art world!

1. Hi Lydia! We're so excited to speak with you today and share your story with our audience. Could you please start by introducing yourself?

My name is Lydia Fenet, Founder and CEO of Lydia Fenet Agency.    

2. How did your career in the auction world begin, and how has it evolved over time?

When I was in college I read an article in Vanity Fair magazine about the sale of Princess Diana's dresses at a place called Christie's in New York. It painted an amazing picture about the glamor of the art world, the role of the auctioneer and the dynamic people who worked in the art world. I applied for an internship while I was in college and that was the beginning of my career. I spent two decades at Christie's in a variety of different roles, but my passion was always auctioneering.

In 2019, I wrote about my incredible experiences as one of the only female charity auctioneers in my first book, "The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You," to empower women to learn how to command a room and sell their way to success. I published the follow up in 2023 called "Claim Your Confidence." I was approached by Rockefeller Center earlier this year about launching a podcast with Newsstand Studios and have loved recording "Claim Your Confidence" in such an iconic New York location. In May, I left Christie's to start the Lydia Fenet Agency, a boutique agency representing best in class charity auctioneers.    

LeftClaim Your Confidence by Lydia Fenet © Lydia Fenet / Right: Lydia Fenet Kering Caring for Women Gala '23 © Kering Caring for Women

3. What has been the most memorable auction you have hosted?

Last year I had the opportunity to host the Elton John Aids Foundation auction the night of the Academy Awards in Los Angeles. I am such a huge fan of the work of the foundation and, of course, of Elton John. It felt surreal to be standing onstage while he watched the auction right next to the stage. It was an incredible night, and most importantly we raised so much money for EJAF which is trying to end AIDS. I'm not sure I will forget that anytime soon!  

4. What is your favorite piece of artwork you've ever auctioned?

It's hard to choose just one, but last month I had the opportunity to auction off an amazing Cindy Sherman piece at the Kering Foundation that she was chairing. She offered to take the winning bidder on a private studio tour in addition to getting the piece. There was so much bidding - and all for an amazing cause.

5. Do you have any role models in the art or auction industries? If so, why do they inspire you?

Honestly there are so many amazing people I love in the art world it is hard to name just one. I've always had a deep admiration for Jonathan Rendell at Christie's - he has such an incredible eye and a wonderful sense of humor. I always love watching Tash Perrin, Georgina Hilton and Gemma Sudlow up on the rostrum during big sales. I worked with Brooke Lampley at Sotheby's for many years when she was at Christie's and it's been so fantastic to watch her meteoric rise. Isolde Breitmaier is such a force in the museum world. Truthfully, I could go on for hours. One of the greatest parts of working in the auction world is the people. I have learned so much from so many over the course of my career.

LeftLydia Fenet Kidsuper Auction © Kidsuper Auction / Right: Lydia Fenet in New York City © Lydia Fenet

6. You're busy selling lots of artwork, but do you also collect it yourself? If so, are there any movements or styles that you particularly resonate with?  

My most recent purchase was a piece by Mallory Page who specializes in large scale abstract paintings. I love the piece so much. It never looks the same over the course of the day.

7. You've just started the Lydia Fenet Agency where you selected a team of auctioneers. What are qualities that you believe make a successful auctioneer?  

The best auctioneers are fearless on stage. They know when to push for the extra bid, and when the bidder is done, they know how to make both the bidder and the underbidder feel great.

8. Finally, what advice would you give to young people just beginning their careers–in the art world and beyond?  

Take ownership of your career path from day one. Don't put your career journey into someone else's hands. Surround yourself with people who challenge you and cheer you on in equal measure.

At home with Lydia Fenet © Lydia Fenet

Their favorite artworks

Painting, Apolo 21, Louis Bottero

Apolo 21

Louis Bottero

Painting - 89 x 116 x 2 cm Painting - 35 x 45.7 x 0.8 inch


Painting, A mountain keeps an echo deep inside., Gugi Goo

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside.

Gugi Goo

Painting - 144.8 x 111.8 x 0.3 cm Painting - 57 x 44 x 0.1 inch


Painting, Invisible touch 856, Iryna Kitaieva

Invisible touch 856

Iryna Kitaieva

Painting - 88.9 x 88.9 x 5.1 cm Painting - 35 x 35 x 2 inch


Fine Art Drawings, Dovetail 5 (Abstract drawing), Margaret Neill

Dovetail 5 (Abstract drawing)

Margaret Neill

Fine Art Drawings - 127 x 96.5 x 0.1 cm Fine Art Drawings - 50 x 38 x 0 inch


Fine Art Drawings, Fosforescente, Stephanie Farah


Stephanie Farah

Fine Art Drawings - 114 x 84 x 3 cm Fine Art Drawings - 44.9 x 33.1 x 1.2 inch


Painting, Birds - Queen of Bavaria, Hunt Slonem

Birds - Queen of Bavaria

Hunt Slonem

Painting - 67 x 56 cm Painting - 26.4 x 22 inch


Painting, Golden memories, Daniela Pasqualini

Golden memories

Daniela Pasqualini

Painting - 61 x 61 x 3.8 cm Painting - 24 x 24 x 1.5 inch


Painting, Ethereal drift, Daniela Pasqualini

Ethereal drift

Daniela Pasqualini

Painting - 152.4 x 121.9 x 3.8 cm Painting - 60 x 48 x 1.5 inch


Sculpture, Fusion, Roland Masson


Roland Masson

Sculpture - 35 x 9 x 9 cm Sculpture - 13.8 x 3.5 x 3.5 inch


Painting, Poetry, Moksananda



Painting - 92 x 73 x 3 cm Painting - 36.2 x 28.7 x 1.2 inch


Photography, Série des mètres, Arthur Di Nunzio

Série des mètres

Arthur Di Nunzio

Photography - 100 x 100 x 0.5 cm Photography - 39.4 x 39.4 x 0.2 inch