Bright Young Things: Stefania Pandakovic

Our series profiling the next generation of antiquarian booksellers continues today with Stefania Pandakovic, a junior specialist in the books and manuscripts department at Christie's in London.

Stefaniac Pandakovic.jpgNP: What is your role at Christie's?

SP: I am a Junior Specialist in the Books and Manuscripts department; my speciality is printed books, with a particular eye on Italian pieces, as well as Italian clients. I often organize Valuation Days in Milan and Rome where collectors bring their books to be valued. One of the things I enjoy the most about my job is the chance to combine the study of the books with the opportunity to meet interesting collectors from different backgrounds and visit amazing places and libraries.
NP: How did you get started in rare books?

SP: As I always tell people it was the books that called me, not the other way around. I had just started my MA in Venice on Italian XVI century paintings when I received a call from Sotheby's Milan asking me to do an internship in their Books, Drawings and Prints department. I will always remember my first day of work: everyone was called into a meeting and I was left in the office with a pile of what I remember calling dusty books to collate. At that time I was even unaware of the meaning of the word collating, but I was keen to make a first move into the business. I got home that evening and decided I never wanted to work with books again. A few years later I was working full time in the London Books and Manuscript department of Christie's.... something must have changed my mind!
NP: What is your favourite rare book that you've handled?

SP: Difficult to say; I love XVI century Italian books, especially the ones with engravings of architecture, science and technology. I also enjoy the books that had a huge impact in the history of the world: Dante, Galileo, Darwin, Kafka, Freud - just to mention a few coming up for sale in the next few days.
I did fall in love with a collection of fantastic books from the Pillone Library in Belluno last year. Seeing the fore-edges painted by Cesare Vecellio, cousin of my favourite artist Tiziano, was special: it created a bridge between my passion for Italian paintings and my knowledge of books.
NP: What do you personally collect?

SP: I personally collect contemporary art, mainly prints: it all started with a Chinese sculpture I bought in Shanghai some years ago. I am now a very proud owner of a Michelangelo Pistoletto and a [very] small Gerhard Richter. I have some first editions too and I recently bought three lovely XVIII century maps of Venice and Corfu. As you may well know apartments in London are very small and I will soon have to find another hobby, or a larger place.
NP: What do you love about working for an auction house?

SP: The main thing I love about Christie's is that you get to see the best art objects in the world. In my case, I feel proud to handle and study so many nice books every day. I also love the thrill of the auction and the various different tasks I get to work on during the year: business getting, researching, cataloguing, selling etc.
NP: Any thoughts to share on the future of rare books and auction houses?

SP: Things change very rapidly in current times and the main auction houses have to move quickly to follow the trends. During the last 4 years, since I joined Christie's, the strategies have changed, the market is different and the clients are looking for new things. It is very important to keep up with the fashions and the new technologies, I believe Christie's is doing it very well by offering a number of new tools such as the online auctions and the Ipad applications. If we manage to balance well between being innovative and maintaining the traditions (client service and competence) I think there will be successful times ahead besides the general crisis the world's facing right now.

The same could be said for the rare books market: collectors are probably some of the most conservative in the art market, but the ability to involve new potential buyers is what will eventually determine those who will succeed and those who won't. One of our personal most innovative achievements here in the Books Department was selling an Apple 1 in 2010! There is a lot of space for new ideas, we just have to find them and be the first to do so.
NP: Any upcoming auctions you're particularly excited about?

SP: Of course, there are two in particular: an amazing auction at Christie's King Street on November 21 where you can find some fantastic illuminated manuscripts and leaves, an amazing group of autograph letters and documents including a musical manuscript by Beethoven and an original typescript by Kafka. Among the printed books I catalogued there is a first edition of the Hypnerotomachia Polipjhili by Francesco Colonna (lot 101), a beautiful Dante from 1502 in a contemporary Venetian binding (lot 104), a great book on perspective that was only ever offered twice at auction (lot 112) and a Cellarius/Doppelmayer with fantastic contemporary hand-colouring (lot 139).

If you want an advice I would also suggest keeping an eye on our South Kensington auction. On offer there are some amazing London maps (lots 201-205), various Kirchers (lots 153-155, 197-199 and 238) and a collection of European avant-garde together with Catalan and South American literature (lots 308-384). And as I always say at the end of my emails: don't hesitate to contact me for any further assistance!