• board had set a $2million limit. “When the bidding hit $2m and we won, there was this moment of silence and then such cheers. It was the most amazing experience. I have chills thinking about it.”

    At Christie's, Paulson lives, breathes and, yes, occasionally has heart palpitations over art. She's led the prestigious auction house from record-setting event to record-setting event over the past 24 years, including an auction last year that registered $412.3 million in sales, the highest total ever for an auction of contemporary art. And though Paulson may be too busy with the Rothkos, Warhols and Bacons flowing through her offices to admit it, she's also in possession of a keen sense of style.

    “She knows everything about fashion,” whispers a Christie's staffer during Paulson's shoot. “Ask about her Mondrian dress...”

    It's difficult to envision a woman more assured in her surroundings than Paulson appears here in the white-walled environs of Christie's' exhibition floor above New York's Rockefeller Center. In a Bottega

    “When something gets UNDER your skin, it stays in your mind... You have to HAVE IT or walk away entirely”

    shift dress that echoes the contemporary Chinese ink works on the walls, she looks polished and confident.

    “I never think of myself as having a style, maybe practical with a twist,” she says. “Everything I chose for today can be flattened and packed into a carry-on bag, which pretty much sums it up.”

    Few arenas fuse status, money, desire and competition as intensely as the modern auction world. "We have a new dimension of wealth that didn't exist [before]," explains Paulson. "It's brought a whole new population of people to collecting." Past attendees include Marc Jacobs, Jay-Z, Madonna and Valentino. When art collector David Pincus's collection came up for auction last May, Paulson knew

    Dress by Bottega Veneta; slingbacks by Jimmy Choo

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