From UQ to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice!

27 Mar 2018
Marcella Fox
Marcella Fox

Marcella Fox has embarked on her final semester of a dual degree at UQ – a Bachelor of Business Management (Marketing) and Arts (Art History). But until just recently, she was in Italy, on a two-month internship, which saw her working with interns from around the world to essentially ‘run’ the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (PGC) in Venice – not a bad way to spend your summer holidays!

Q: First things first Marcella, how did you land this amazing opportunity and what skills do you think helped you secure the placement?
A: The process involved posting my CV, two reference letters, my university transcript (optional) and a cover letter detailing my motivation to apply. Of course, most importantly, you had to be passionate about excelling in a field related to art or culture and be able to express that effectively and persuasively in one A4 page.

I believed my previous experience working in a respected museum (UQ Art Museum) on multiple projects helped me immensely. I’m currently a front-of-house staff member at the UQ Art Museum, which has prepared me to perform all the duties required of a PGC intern, including professionally interacting with visitors from all over the world, and gallery etiquette, etc. My Winter Scholarship placement with UQ Art Museum’s Advancement team transformed my interests into passions. This undoubtedly helped me to secure my internship at the PGC.

From day one on the internship, we were expected to know how to correctly treat and handle artworks, invigilate in the museum and interact with visitors, so my UQ experiences prepared me well for this opportunity.

Q: So what kind of tasks did you undertake on the internship?
A: The interns essentially ‘run’ the museum (or so we like to believe!). In the morning, we prepared the museum for approximately 1,000 to 2,000 visitors (depending on whether it’s Venice Carnival time or not), which included tasks such as cleaning the Palazzo windows and the sculptures in the garden. We said good morning to all the modernist masterpieces as we removed their pyjamas (literally), and rushed into formation in each of the rooms to prepare to invigilate, welcome visitors, sell tickets, and give public talks, and private tours. At the end of the day, when all the audio-guides were finally returned and our legs were numb from standing for hours, we put the pyjamas back on the works, looked at the next day’s timetable, and went home to study for our upcoming public presentations or private tours.

The talks we presented were on a variety of topics, for example, the life of Peggy Guggenheim, an artwork of our choice, the carnival theme in artworks and also tours of temporary exhibitions. I presented a number of talks on Peggy’s life and also the theme of ‘play’ and ‘games’ in modernist art such as Surrealism (there are a number of Yves Tanguy and Salvador Dalí works in the collection on display) and abstraction (for example, in Alexander Calder’s mobiles and figurines) as part of the PGC’s ‘Carnival theme’. I also presented on Alexander Calder’s life and work, and the temporary exhibition ‘Marino Marini: Visual Passions’. On 26 February, I presented on Kazimir Malevich’s life and work, on the day of his birthday.

Each intern was also required to present a seminar to the other interns and the ‘Capi’ (our bosses) on a topic of their choice; something they are passionate about. I chose to talk about Australian art, as none of the other interns had seen any art from Australia before.

Q: What’s the most amazing experience you had while you were there?
A: Occasionally, some interns will be asked to take paid private tours, and near the end of my time there, I gave my first one. As the pressure was on, I was quite nervous! However, I was lucky to have the most receptive tour group I could have hoped for, and I enjoyed the experience so much. I was thrilled to receive feedback from the group that my explanations of modern art movements, such as Cubism, Futurism, Suprematism and Surrealism, provided them with the clearest and deepest understanding that they had ever achieved. It was rewarding to be able to share these exciting ideas and to instil a sense of excitement in other people about them.

Q: Had you ever been to Italy before? How’s the experience of living and working overseas been?
A: I had been to Italy before – in June/July of 2016 I participated in an intensive three-week UQ subject called ‘Art and Architecture in Venice’. This experience definitely played a role in my desire to return to Venice and participate in this internship. Following that three-week course, I also spent a semester studying Art History in Glasgow, Scotland. Studying Art History overseas has not only opened my eyes further to the outside world, but also dramatically increased my love, appreciation and enthusiasm for Australian culture and art history.

Q: How do you think this experience will help you and your career?
A: The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is perhaps the most important collection of European and American artworks from the first half of the twentieth century in Italy. Having secured this internship and gained professional experience will no doubt be the greatest leg-up for my career that I can ever hope for.

Q: What’s next for you and where would you like to end up post studies?
A: In the immediate future, I plan to complete the last semester of my undergraduate degree. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I want to do at the moment, as I’m enthusiastic about everything new that I try. However, my scholarship and subsequent internship within the Advancement team at the UQ Art Museum has piqued my interest in the areas of marketing, development, client and donor relations (within a cultural institution such as an art museum/gallery). I am also considering the possibility of a Master’s degree.

Q: Would you encourage other students to apply for this opportunity?
A: Absolutely. The internship program has been an invaluable experience for me, and one that has increased my knowledge-pool, my confidence and my passion.