Michael H. Dewberry (MA 2017) is a consignment liaison for Sotheby’s marketplace specializing in decorative arts and books. He is also the producer and host of Artroverted, a podcast about the art world.

What attracted you to the BGC’s program?

When deciding between different MA programs, BGC was an outlier. The seemingly unlimited avenues of study and interdisciplinary approach were enticing. None of the other programs I was considering had conservators, archaeologists, and anthropologists on staff. The faculty’s multifaceted background and approach to scholarship is extraordinary. Coming from a traditional art history background, BGC was a breath of fresh air. I was attracted to the small size and tight-knit community. It provided an excellent level of individual attention and the opportunity to establish close working relationships with faculty and staff. The digital media lab and focus gallery project was another reason I chose BGC. During my studies, I participated in the planning and execution of Agents of Faith: Votive Objects in Time and Place (September 14, 2018 – January 6, 2019). I was fortunate to co-author an essay in the catalog, which was named one of the best art books of the year by the New York Times.

What was your focus of study here? How did you find yourself involved with it?

After taking a course with Charlotte Vignon, then curator of decorative arts at the Frick Collection, I became consumed with the curious case of their famille noire Chinese export porcelain collection. These obscure black ground vases were highly prized at the turn of the century and became the most expensive porcelain available. Purportedly created during the 18th century, it turned out that they were actually 19th-century inventions. Despite being inauthentic, they are still prominent fixtures in export porcelain collections across the globe. Through Charlotte’s course and another on conservation taught by Ivan Gaskell and Jessica Walthew, I approached the topic through both historical and scientific analysis. As a curator and conservator, Ivan and Jessica gave me the tools and encouragement to expand my inquiry.

At the end of my first year, I took a course with Jeffrey Collins on Viceregal American material culture. The timing couldn’t have been better as I secured a summer internship in Mexico at the Museo Internacional del Barroco. During my residency in Puebla, I coordinated an international traveling exhibition that traced the influence of Chinese porcelain on Mexican Talavera Poblana (tin-glazed ceramics), a very BGC topic. I also curated a small exhibition of Viceregal furniture, something I wouldn’t have been able to do without the knowledge I gained from professor Collin’s course.

Describe your position and how you came to it. What sort of projects are you working on?

Currently, I’m a consignment liaison for Sothebys.com marketplace, where I lead the books category and serve as a fine and decorative arts generalist. After graduation, I returned home to Texas, and Sotheby’s was searching for a fine and decorative arts generalist to cover North Texas. The breadth of knowledge I acquired at the BGC allowed me to step into the position with the tools to catalog and evaluate fine and decorative arts from ancient times to the present day.

During the last three years, I started working with contemporary artists, curating exhibitions locally, and writing for Friend of the Artist, a print and digital platform that supports emerging artists. Having worked exclusively with dead makers in my academic career, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with living artists and supporting the thriving creative community of Dallas-Fort Worth.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I was searching for a creative outlet to occupy myself during lockdown. I had discussed starting a podcast for a year, but it wasn’t until quarantine that I had the time to do so. There was no excuse not to get anyone on a Zoom call to talk about their career path and projects. I’m so grateful to everyone who took the time to speak with me during those trying months. I feel so fortunate to have many mentors in the arts, some of whom I met while studying at BGC, and I wanted to create a platform to inspire and inform current and future art world professionals. I hope to grow the podcast into a mentorship platform for arts professionals - stay tuned!

How has your experience at BGC helped your career?

All of the coursework at BGC prepared me for my current position at Sotheby’s. Though I had previously run a gallery focused on fine and decorative arts, I was entirely self-taught. In my undergraduate studies at Trinity College, I focused exclusively on painting, sculpture, and photography. Material culture and decorative arts were not part of my vernacular. The wealth of knowledge and contacts I formed with top museum professionals and scholars through classes and guest lecturers who visited campus allowed me to deepen my network immensely.