Lydia Wickliffe Fenet, 39, is a senior vice president at Christie’s, and its international director of strategic partnerships, a program she created in 2011 with the goal of fostering global partnerships with like-minded luxury brands.
During her 18-year career with Christie’s, she has raised millions of dollars for some of the top nonprofits in the United States including amfAR, Tipping Point, Naples Winter Wine Festival and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
“With charity auctions, you shouldn’t be selling art or jewelry because those are things people want to think about and consider beforehand,” Ms. Fenet said. “You want something to draw people in, especially in New York, that’s a priceless item. And you want to present it to them in a way that seems fresh and fun.”
She did 70 charity auctions last year. “Ones for schools are always fun,” she said. “Parents are excited to be there, they’ve had a lot to drink and are really into bidding and giving because it’s for their kids.”
Ms. Fenet lives in TriBeCa with her husband, Chris Delaney, 38, a partner at J. Burke Capital Partners, and their children: Beatrice, 4; Henry, 3 and Eloise, 6 months.
Ms. Fenet is off and running long before her gavel hits the wooden sound block.
WAKE UP I usually wake up between 5 and 5:30 to nurse Eloise. It is such a quiet, peaceful start to the day. My daughter Beatrice is the real alarm clock. After I finish nursing Eloise we usually doze until Beatrice comes in around 7, and hops in bed for five or 10 minutes. My husband gets my son and we all hang out for a couple of minutes before it is time to get moving.
TAG TEAMING By 7:30 we’re all in the kitchen. My husband is more of a gourmet cook and Beatrice is over my turkey and cheese sandwiches. Inevitably I push him toward making her avocado toast for lunch and I make pancakes for breakfast. Eloise sits on the counter in her chair cooing and watching the chaos.
QUICK GOODBYE Our nanny, Rhea, arrives at 8:30 to watch Eloise, and my husband and I drop the kids off at school by 8:45, get into an Uber or hop on the subway and start returning emails.
OFFICE HOURS By 9:30 I’m at my desk. The morning is spent in a variety of meetings, both internal with my four team members, and on conference calls with our London and Hong Kong groups.
LUNCH BREAK I schedule lunches on Mondays and Wednesdays because people rarely cancel on those days. I find that doing business is easier when you meet someone face to face. From 12:30 to 2 I’m usually at Fig & Olive, Fred’s at Barneys, or Casa Lever.
MORE By 2:15 I’m back at the office and will do a meeting with a client, like US Trust or Mandarin Oriental. I start by walking them through the galleries to show them what’s on view. Our exhibitions change weekly so our galleries can be filled with jewelry one week and contemporary art the next. Then I do check-ins with other clients like Bugatti, NetJets or Town & Country to discuss our ongoing strategy for their brand. As the auction calendar is constantly evolving, it’s important I keep them updated about sales and exhibitions.
HOME On auction nights I leave at 4:45. In the Uber I return more emails. I have a British mother so I am very into routine. By 5:15 Rhea and I give the kids dinner. By 6, Beatrice is in my bathroom taking a shower, and Rhea gives Henry a bath or vice versa. I usually give Eloise a bath after Beatrice is finished. At 6:15 it’s milk time. Eloise nurses for the last time at 6:30 — she usually falls asleep toward the end of her feed so I can put her in the crib. Then I read three books in each child’s room, followed by a cuddle. This is the best part of the day. We like “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “Snappsy the Alligator” and “Tikki Tikki Tembo.”
AND WE’RE OFF I don’t put the dress on until after the kids are asleep, so around 7:15 I go into hyper drive. I have 40 cocktail dresses that I’ve bought over the years, and I pull a few out to see what I want to wear — it’s hard to take an auction in a full-length dress, they make me feel inhibited. If there’s a color associated with the charity and I have a dress that matches, I’ll wear that. If I’ve worked with them before, I check online to ensure I’m not wearing the same thing I wore at their last event. Sometimes, as a special treat, I let Beatrice stay up late and pretend to put makeup on her as well. She zips me up. She’s a pro by now.
LEAVING At 7:30 I high-five my husband, throw on a coat and I’m out the door. If I’m running late I’ll take the subway with high heels and earrings in my bag. No one can tell I’ve got a cocktail dress on. If it’s far away I’ll take an Uber.
PREPERFORMANCE POWWOW I arrive 30 to 45 minutes before I go on stage. The beauty is that everyone has started without me. By 8 guests have had a cocktail hour, eaten their appetizers and dinner, and are hearing the last round of speeches. Or they’re watching the charity’s call to action video, which highlights who is being impacted and benefiting from their donation tonight. I meet with the event coordinator to make sure we’re on the same page and ask what their goal is for the paddle raise, how much they want to raise in the room and which tables they feel are going to be the big bidders. And we review any notes they want to feed me before I go up.
SHOWTIME Before the M.C. announces me, I’m backstage at 9 collecting my thoughts. I always have my first line of the evening solidified so that the minute I rap down my gavel I know how I am going to engage the audience. Then I gauge their reaction so I know how the rest of the evening will go.
THE LOTS The most dramatic auction shift in the last five to seven years has been the chef culture. People go crazy for them at auctions. Last year at the Food Bank of New York City, someone paid $ 150,000 for David Chang, Tom Colicchio and Mario Batali to cook in their home. Some spectacular lots I’ve sold include: a sitting portrait of Nelson Mandela for $ 1 million; a box at the Super Bowl for 20 guests at the new San Francisco Football Stadium with on-field tickets for $ 1.6 million; and Bruce Springsteen’s guitar, his mom’s lasagna and the opportunity to hang out with the band after a show for $ 370,000. He doubled it so we sold it twice.
HOME, AGAIN By 9:45 I’m in a cab headed home, which is when I order dinner, usually sushi or something from V-Café, Westville. The minute I enter my apartment, I change into PJ’s. Sometimes Chris will sit with me, sometimes I eat alone. If I’m wired I’ll read. I’m also writing a book, “The Most Powerful Woman in the Room,” so I’ll work on that.
LIGHTS OUT I try to be in bed at midnight. Chris is already asleep. And it starts all over again.