Placing value

Chatting with Jennifer Pitman about her new job is a conversation that’s filled with words such as adventure, fun and excitement.

Though the longtime Westchester County resident is just a couple of months into a new role in the world of auctions, art and antiques, her enthusiasm is more than evident.

“Oh my God, it is so much fun,” she says. “It’s just learning all the time.” 

In late October, Rago Arts & Auction Center, a full-service auction house based in Lambertville, New Jersey, with annual sales of $33 million, announced the addition of Pitman to its staff.

In making the announcement, founder David Rago noted, “New York City has long been one of our key markets and the natural next step is to invest in reaching our existing and new clients in Westchester and Connecticut, both sellers and buyers. A critical component of that effort is an experienced auction professional dedicated to driving this expansion.”

And that is where Pitman, formerly head of Sale, Silver at Christie’s New York, comes into the picture, joining Rago as specialist and senior account manager, Westchester/Connecticut.

“I worked in the auction field for 20 years,” she says. “I call this my second act.”

An act, she calls, “an exciting venture for me — and Rago,” before adding with a wry laugh that it “does involve a lot of driving.”

ON THE ROAD

But we get the sense it’s all a welcome change for Pitman after a long career in Manhattan.

At Christie’s, Pitman says, “people would tend to come to you.”

Now, she says, “I’m on the road a lot. I’m (Rago’s) boots on the ground here… I’m in Hartford, Greenwich, Tuckahoe, Garrison.”

And Lambertville, of course, where she goes “for views and auctions.”

Pitman was looking for a new challenge and knew well of Rago.

“I really loved the entrepreneurial spirit of Rago. They’re very forward-looking in seeking out new markets.”

She says that Rago’s foray into the region is a savvy move.

“There kind of seems to be a need for a ‘middle-ground’ auction house,” she says. People seem to be seeking more personal attention than they might receive from a large international firm but also more expertise than a tiny local establishment might provide.

Pitman, a Toronto native who followed up her studies at McGill University with postgraduate work at The Bard Graduate Center in Manhattan, looks forward to sharing her expertise.

“I did a master’s in decorative arts, so I’m well-versed in a number of categories.”

That training, she says, helped her develop a discerning eye.

“You can spot that something looks good.”

Pitman wants to maintain her role as specialist, “because it keeps me very close to the property.”

“I continue to be a specialist in silver and increasingly in jewelry,” she says, noting she will soon complete her studies at the Gemological Institute of America in Manhattan.

It all adds up to support her role, which she describes as one designed “to help clients buy and sell fine and decorative arts.”

She says that people may purchase items in hopes of them maintaining or increasing in value, but “I think ultimately people buy things to live with them and enjoy them.”

And she recently saw a “spectacular” example of just that.

“I was on a Greenwich house tour yesterday, and one house had this fabulous Nakashima table and next to it was a 17th-century English fire screen that they had decorated with a Brazilian tapestry from the 1960s. It was wonderful.”

A WARM WELCOME

Pitman is relishing such chances to explore her home turf much more in depth.

In addition to client work, “The other part is really to try to get involved with the community…  There are many areas of outreach.”

She meets with people in specific towns to get a sense of the community, “that sort of gives me a road map and from there, I get in and talk with the institutions.”

She talks of an appointment in Hartford. On that trip, “then I try to nip into the New Britain Museum (of American Art).” 

“One of the really fun things is finding out about all the different museums,” she says, briefly mentioning the William Louis-Dreyfus Foundation and Lyndhurst, both recent WAG subjects.

Pitman has already been involved in the planning of some local events, including an April 22 Appraisal Day to benefit the New Castle Historical Society.

Cassie Ward, the society’s executive director, says that the “Antiques Roadshow”-style event at the Horace Greeley House Museum in Chappaqua will allow people to learn about their prized possessions from experts in the field and include a talk with Sebastian Clarke, the director of estate services at Rago.

Ward says the event was spurred by her meeting Pitman.

“I have had the pleasure of meeting Jenny on a couple of occasions. Her knowledge, skill, professionalism and enthusiasm are bringing fresh perspectives, excitement and educational opportunities to the auction and antiques world in Westchester.”

As Ward says, “We couldn’t be more thrilled to collaborate with Rago to host such an exciting and interesting event.”

And we bet Pitman feels the same.

For more, visit ragoarts.com or contact Pitman directly at jenny@ragoarts.com or 917-745-2730. For more on the April event, visit newcastlehs.org.

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