A Sit Down with Programme Director Ted Sandling

31 Dec 2023

We recently sat down with our Director of Online Courses, Ted Sandling, to find about his role within Christie's Education and our upcoming Contemporary Art course.


Tell us a little about your background? How did your experiences culminate to you presenting the new Contemporary Art Course?

I have a background in both the art world and video-based startups. I started with Christie’s in 2008, but left five years into my career, when I had the opportunity to be part of a launch team of an innovative app that turned text into video. We were a small team, and had huge initial success, although ultimately it went the way of many startups… I learnt a lot about building a team that works incredibly well together to make something new, and I learnt a lot about video production. When the chance came to find a new vision for online courses at Christie’s Education, I fought hard to take it on. And I’ve loved every moment since!


What did you enjoy most about founding online courses?

When online courses were launched by Christie’s Education back in 2017, only a single course was produced (it was on contemporary art too) and although it was a fascinating programme, it was quite basic in how it was taught. Over six weeks, it was little more than a powerpoint presentation with a pre-recorded voiceover. Surprisingly, this style remains quite common for a course in the art world. But I knew it could be better, and although I hadn’t been involved with the launch, I pitched within the company to lead a new way of producing online courses. I knew they could be wholly video based, almost documentary-style in quality. So what I really enjoyed then, and still do, is creating absolutely exquisite films, with a truly wonderful team, and learning so much about the subject as we do so.


Can you tell us about your role within the online programme? And what does it involve?

I’m the Programme Director for online courses, and it’s quite an expansive role. I oversee the creation of our online courses from the beginning to when they’re released to our students, and then I’m responsible for making sure students continue to benefit from their studies. It starts with commissioning scriptwriters: academics or experts in the field; and working with them as they develop the scripts and prepare for the shoot. That’s a very intensive week on location when we film all the course lectures at once. Alongside the script-editing, I’ll be planning our special feature interviews and travelling to film them. After all the filming, the team spends months editing the videos to make sure the course ready for launch. And I couldn’t do any of this without the online course team, editors, production management and translation, and our incredible tutor Jacqui who not only brings students along on the courses themselves, but also does a lot of behind the scenes work on scripts and handouts.


Could you tell us about your new course? What are the key aspects?

The Contemporary Art World: Theory and Structure is a really fascinating new course, and I think unlike anything else that’s currently available. We wanted to make a contemporary art online course that had practical, applicable learning to it, as well as digging deep into the theory behind contemporary art itself. Combining the two really helps students to find their way around today’s art world.

As such, it’s a more detailed programme than some of the others, essentially made up of two lectures each week, as well as the special features. Every module has a theory section and a mapping section. The theory section teaches you about the intellectual foundations behind contemporary art, and introduces students to a great many diverse artists, while the mapping section explores how the art world works. What are the most important galleries, collectors, art fairs, auction, etc.? How do they work? And how do they interact to create today’s art world?


What made you decide to step in front of the camera and present the course?

This course was a special one, because it was written by two academics: the wonderful New York-based Marisa Lerer on theory, and the ever-charming Tom Flynn on the art world. Marisa lectures for Christie’s Education New York, and Tom for us in London – he also used to lead the business side of Christie’s Education’s old MSc programme. Because we had two writers, there wasn’t an obvious presenter: but as I’d directed every course in the past, and have a fair amount of public-speaking experience, I felt confident that I could deliver their lectures in the way I know our students respond best to. It was a real joy being on the other side of the camera, directed by the team, and able to throw myself into the scripts I’d spent a long time editing with the writers and Jacqui.


Tell us about the learning outcomes - What can the student expect through studying the course?

The most important outcomes will be a deeper understanding of contemporary art and the artists who create it, and an ability to find your way around the art world. Both of those are complex, maybe even sometimes deliberately obscure, and I wanted this course to open the contemporary art world up to students. Along the way, students will learn about particular areas of theory, like memory and technology, power and globalisation. I published a book that slots into the idea ‘memory’, so that lecture was very close to my heart. Also, the special features will introduce students to some really major individuals in the art world.


The future prospects of students?

I hope this course will help students to find roles in the contemporary art world. It will give them the tools they need to understand the market better, to see where they may wish to work, or to pivot their career. I also want this to be a course for art lovers! Students should come away from it with a newfound appreciation for contemporary art and the environments in which it flourishes.


To learn more about The Contemporary Art World: Theory and Structure, and register your early interest - click The Contemporary Art World: Theory and Structure.